Through an apprenticeship to a candy maker, Italian Domenico Ghirardelli (pronounced "Gear-ar-delly") learned the tricks of the chocolate trade at a young age. In 1837, he decided to take his skills to South America, opening a sweet shop in Lima, Peru, a year later. Ghirardelli's taste for the finer things in life extended beyond candy and chocolate, though, and lured by news of the gold strike at Sutter's Mill in 1849, he set sail for California. Unluckily for him-but fortunately for us-the gold didn't pan out, so Ghirardelli went back to doing what he knew best. In 1852, he created a new confectionery company in San Francisco. Today the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is the longest continuously-operating chocolate producer in the U.S.

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