San Francisco

Z. Cioccolato Hosting Grand Reopening April 9th With Tours, Free Fudge

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there's definitely free fudge—Z. Cioccolato, 474 Columbus Ave., is known for its giant sidewalk sign advertising samples, and it wants locals to return this Saturday, April 9th to try some.

Owner Mike Zwiefelhofer, who bought the shop last year, is hosting a grand reopening party from noon–6pm Saturday to show off some of the changes he's made in the shop, including a fresh look and the addition of Humphry Slocombe ice cream.

Photo: Mike Zwiefelhofer

The chocolate and candy shop, which opened September 12th, 2002, continues to tempt tourists with intoxicating aromas of house-made fudge, as well as its barrels of taffy, hard candy and more. But Zwiefelhofer, who took over on July 6th, 2015, from original owner Kerri Warmus and her husband Mark, polished it up a bit, and he aims to draw neighbors from North Beach, Nob Hill and beyond.

The major changes to the front include a paint job and new artwork. The walls "were green and red on the bottom and yellow on the top, so it was very colorful and bright," Zwiefelhofer said. "One of the things we wanted to accomplish with painting it a warm cream color is we wanted the candy colors to pop." With the old paint, the colors of the candy blended in too much, he said. He also added new candy-themed artwork.

Mike Zwiefelhofer in the shop, pre-paint job. (Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline)

The shop with new paint and less clutter. (Photo: Mike Zwiefelhofer)

Another reason for the refresh: “We want to be much more interactive with our kitchen," Zwiefelhofer said. "We want to be able to take tour groups back there and maybe have lessons back there.” He's having the sign out front repainted this week, too, with a cleaner, easier-to-read logo. 

Zwiefelhofer considered changing the name because it can be hard to pronounce if you're not familiar with Italian, but Z. Cioccolato earned so many awards and accolades over the years, he decided to keep it. It was featured on the Cooking Channel's "Unique Sweets" in 2012, and in December of 2015, MSN named it one of America's 25 best fudge shops.

Another tweak: "We are going to start serving Humphry Slocombe ice cream in our shop, which we’re really excited about,” Zwiefelhofer said. He hopes to have it set up by the open house. He decided to nix the gelato, he told us, because it doesn't make sense to compete with the five other shops selling gelato within a few blocks. He added, "If we’re going to bring in ice cream, let’s bring in one of the local producers."

Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline

Zwiefelhofer launched a Kickstarter campaign last year to raise money for the renovations and brought in $14,675. He sweetened the deal by giving donors fudge and other incentives. The shop sells more than 50 different flavors of fudge—all original recipes that Zwiefelhofer purchased from Kerri Warmus—as well as its own chocolate confections such as peanut butter cups and chocolate-covered pretzels.

And locals in North Beach and surrounding neighborhoods always get 10 percent off and $1 bags of popcorn. "See what we’ve done; try some fudge again," he urges everyone.


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