SLO Public Market adds another business — a gourmet chocolate shop

Stafford’s Chocolates is the latest addition to the San Luis Obispo Public Market on Tank Farm Road.
Stafford’s Chocolates is the latest addition to the San Luis Obispo Public Market on Tank Farm Road.

A store that sells gourmet handcrafted chocolates is the latest business to join the San Luis Obispo Public Market under construction at Bonetti Ranch.

Stafford’s Chocolates — which has made sweets using fresh, local ingredients from California’s Central Valley for 30 years — is the ninth business to sign on with the marketplace.

Stafford’s features house-made bean-to-bar chocolates from around the world, including vegan, soy and dairy-free options, SLO Public Market said in a press release.

The SLO Public Market project, under construction at Tank Farm Road and South Higuera Street, is slated for shops, restaurants, a farmers market, a fish market, a fitness studio, a bar and lounge, and more.

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An artist’s rendering shows the proposed San Luis Obispo Public Market at South Higuera and Tank Farm roads. Courtesy rendering

The project will consist of eight buildings at 120 Tank Farm Road, seven of which are expected to open to the public around September, said project spokeswoman Shala Schultz.

The eighth building, the Market Hall where Stafford’s is located, is expected November or December, Schultz said.

Stafford’s also will offer sweets from Mama Ganache, a San Luis Obispo-based chocolate store. The two stores have partnered since 2018. Products include handmade truffles, barks and specialty items.

Stafford’s production facility will be located below the retail shop at the SLO Public Market.

Visitors will be able to see fresh chocolate confections being made daily. Chocolate-making classes and other private events will be offered as well, the news release said.

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Stafford’s Chocolates is coming to San Luis Obispo Public Market on Tank Farm Road. Courtesy photo

Stafford’s, a family-owned business, operates California stores in Los Olivos and Porterville, as well as the Swedish Candy Factory in Solvang, which makes authentic, handmade polkagris, a Swedish candy stick invented in 1859 in Granna, Sweden.

Until the market opens, Stafford’s and Mama Ganache products are available at Mama Ganache’s Monterey Street location or online at

Other businesses signed on to the SLO Public Market, according to its website, include: Central Coast Creamery, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, High Street Market & Deli, Kraken Coffee Company, Mixed Co. (Krobar and Yes Cocktail), Negranti Creamery, The Neighborhood Acai and Juice Bar and Orangetheory Fitness.

A family-owned store

Stafford’s owner Ben Taylor said his family bought Mama Ganache last fall from Tom and Eve Neuhaus.

Taylor said that Mama Ganache will continue to operate at 1445 Monterey St. until the eventual move to the SLO Public Market, and the branding will shift to the Stafford’s Chocolates, though products under the Mama Ganache model, including ethically-sourced chocolates from Africa, will continue to be sold.

Taylor that the SLO Public Market is appealing because of lower rent, a chance to showcase its production in the planned new basement facility, and customer visibility.

“Financially this makes sense,” Taylor said. “It’s really expensive to operate downtown and some people don’t know we’re there (on upper Monterey). About 2,000 homes will be built in the general area of the SLO Public Market over the next few years. It was be a busy road and a lot of exposure in general.”

Taylor said he has studied culinary arts in San Francisco, where he also worked as a chef at Mission Star restaurant.

Taylor said that he made a trip to Africa with Tom Neuhaus and will continue to help Africans “improve their lives” through the chocolate production business and other humanitarian efforts.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.