Maker Story: Fran's Chocolates
When we think of matches made in (Washington) heaven, we don’t have to look much further than our own with Fran’s Chocolates. A company as iconic as they come, Fran’s is as much a Seattle legend as Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Chihuly, and Jimmy Hendrix. Fran’s exquisite chocolates define the Seattle zeitgeist: high-quality, whip-smart, and sometimes a little bit salty. Honestly, our mouths are watering just thinking about her Grey & Smoked Salt Caramels—we may have to take a quick break to order some for ourselves.
Before we get into our relationship with Fran’s, it’s important to tell you a little more about the history of one of Seattle’s most respected artisans. It’s a story that starts in Seattle, takes us across the Atlantic, and ultimately, back home. It’s a story full of romance, hard work, and balanced sweetness. And it’s a story we plan to tell every time we gift a beautifully-presented box of Fran’s Chocolates.
Meet The Master Chocolatier
After earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Washington and struggling to find a career path that suited her, Fran Bigelow launched her eponymous confectionary shop after taking a life-changing trip to Paris in 1970. As the French would say, elle est tombée amoureuse de l'élégante simplicité des saveurs pures (translation: she fell in love with the elegant simplicity of pure flavors). It was all very refined and très European, just like Fran’s Chocolates came to be. She focused on the craft of chocolate, pursuing purity of ingredients and flavor. She made chocolate her art—and it shows.
Fran’s love of chocolate started when she was a child. She and her grandmother would visit Frederick & Nelson’s (remember them?) “huge candy kitchen” for special chocolate treats, like personalized Easter eggs. Little did la petite Fran know that those trips would stoke in her the embers that would grow into a fire of a big, lifelong, magical adventure.
It’s safe to say one thing led to another, and Fran’s eventual journey to Paris was pre-destined. Upon returning home, Fran attended the California Culinary Institute and opened her first patisserie and chocolate shop in Madison Park in 1982. Her partnership with Made In Washington was just a few years away.
Fran’s Artisanal Chocolate
Fran lives with the intention of joie-de-vivre. That pursuit of joy has led her to not only create delightful chocolates (never too sweet and sometimes a little bit salty) but has also won her fans the world over—including former President Obama. He tried her chocolates on the campaign trail during a stop in the Emerald City and is rumored to have requested special blue boxes with a golden presidential seal for overnight guests once he got into office.
Fran has also inspired a chocolate renaissance in the United States, with many of her fans producing chocolates in Washington State. Add an abundance of craft chocolate to the list of reasons we love living in Washington. Thank you, Fran!
You’ll notice that Fran’s attention to detail also translates to her packaging. Many of her handmade Japanese washi chocolate boxes come tied in a beautiful ribbon. Everything she creates includes unparalleled attention to detail and a touch of magic.
Fran’s Craft Chocolate and Made In Washington
Made In Washington and Fran’s connected formally in 1997. As CEO and Fran’s daughter Andrina told us, “We really appreciate the long-term support from our local Made In Washington partners. In addition to supporting our chocolates and spreading the word about Fran's, we have also shared business ideas and best practices with each other over the years.”
On our end, the relationship was the most natural of fits, and we’re grateful it continues to grow and flourish. Our future together is bright.
An Enduring Love Affair with Seattle
The pièce de résistance in this Maker Story is not just the chocolate but the juxtaposition of the sweet treat with Fran’s love of her native terroir. “I love so much about the beauty and accessibility of the water and mountains,” Fran said about her love of our state, “but one of my favorite things about Washington is how supportive the people are of small, family-owned businesses. I’ve felt this support for Fran’s from the day I opened my first shop 40 years ago.”
From Fran’s shop to our stores and into your homes, this Made In Washington maker is a living legend, and her chocolates are one of the most beautiful gifts you can give—to yourself or to someone special.
Find The Best Chocolates In Seattle
Fran’s Chocolates, a woman-owned, artisan master chocolatier business in active pursuit of chocolate purity, is designed, crafted, and made in Seattle, WA.