Dewar’s Candy Shop

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Heather and Mike Dewar

Heather and Mike Dewar

Profile appeared in our 32-1 Issue – April 2015

If there’s one thing people know about Bakersfield it’s that we’re loyal; we love supporting a local legacy. And when that legacy also includes delicious candy chews and ice cream? Well, count us in tenfold.

Dewar’s is a Bakersfield institution, one that often takes first prize in “Best of Bakersfield” lists year after year. Why? Because after over 100 years in business—106 to be exact—the family-run company is still churning out the same great tasting chews with a smile.

But exactly how this company came to be such a Bakersfield icon might not be known by all.

Founders James & Lena Dewar

Founders James & Lena Dewar

It all started at 1665 Chester Avenue, when brothers James H. and George opened The Chocolate Shop. The year was 1909.

“George worked on a dairy in Kansas, and James was a self-taught baker,” explained Michael Dewar, the great-grandson of James H. Dewar and current owner. “Together with some knowledge making ice cream, and working with chocolate, they saw an opportunity to continue doing what they had learned growing up. They really didn’t know much about making candy then, but as time went by, their recipes were perfected to the very same recipes we have used for over a century.”

According to Dewar, the peanut butter chews were the first created, in 1909. “The chews were cut by hand, and were three quarters of an inch long. The peppermint chews were created in 1911, and the caramel chews in 1914.”

George later moved to Taft and James continued to operate the store. In 1910 he married Lena B. Yancey and they had four children: Joseph H., born 1912; James A., born 1914; Mary Ellen, born 1915; and Rosalind, born 1922.

By 1917, James H. decided to relocate to 948 Baker Street, where the store remained for just over 10 years, until 1928.

J.H. Dewar in the original shop, 1909

J.H. Dewar in the original shop, 1909

At that time, James H. and Lena moved their family to Ventura, California, and they opened a store there. But it was during this time away that Lena’s father passed away. Her mother, Rose, needed help back in Bakersfield and so she offered to help build a new candy shop if James H. and Lena came home. In 1930, the family returned and opened Dewar’s Candy Shop at 1120 Eye Street—where it’s still open today.

It was in 1930 that James H. decided to make and serve ice cream. “Ice cream and chocolates were introduced in 1930,” Dewar said. “The ice cream was hand cranked by salt brine, and chocolates were hand dipped.” At that point, James H.’s sons, Joe and James A., were both working at the business and daughter Rosalind joined after, learning to dip chocolates (which she did until her retirement in 2007).

Joe eventually decided to follow a different path and became a cabinet maker and moved to Santa Cruz in the 1940s, so James A. took over the shop in 1947, continuing the legacy started by his father and uncle (including the creation of the chocolate almond caramel in 1969).

James A.’s son, George, took over in 1977 and his young family was also immersed in the legacy of Dewar’s. In 1994, Michael, George’s son, began overseeing the manufacturing of the chews (and the creation of the almond chew in 1998).

Old Kern, 1912

Old Kern, 1912

In 1999, George’s daughter Heather joined the company with the intention of opening a second Dewar’s Candy Shop. Just three short years later, her goals were realized and the second location opened at 9530 Hageman.

The past few decades have brought the most expansion to Dewar’s including sugar free chews and the Anniversary chews in 2009. “We have expanded our production facility to account for the retail increase from one store to our current four Dewar’s locations,” Dewar added. “We have increased our staff base from approximately 30 employees to over 100.”

The location on Hageman was closed in 2011 to prepare for even more expansion—the January 2012 opening of the Dewar’s soda fountain at 2700 Calloway. The store is unlike any Dewar’s before it and anyone who’s visited can attest to this. The singing moose head, the patio fireplace and water feature, and of course the large Big-style floor piano for people to dance on. In 2012, Dewar’s also opened its first drive-thru location on Ming Avenue, and just last year, a location at the new Outlets at Tejon.

But amidst all the expansion, the heart of the business has never changed.

“We have continued to use the original recipes created by our great-grandfather,” Dewar said. “We never compromise the quality of our product, and pride ourselves on consistency. Our intent is that our customers will receive the same quality product from generation to generation. Our philosophy is to always give our customer the service and the quality of product they are accustomed to. We realize that our customers are the reason we have been in business for 106 years. It is our goal to always make sure they have been treated and served with the best, ‘Dewar’s’ experience possible.”

Dewar’s Candy Shop, 1930

Dewar’s Candy Shop, 1930

Dewar explained that the best part for him comes from hearing about the traditions that he witnesses by customers and their families. “Seeing the smiles on children’s faces, and knowing we had something to do with it. Watching families enter one of our establishments with a smile and leaving with an even bigger one!” Dewar said. “It’s all about the experience we have had an opportunity to create for those who choose to visit a Dewar’s location.

“Being the fourth generation of this family business is such an honor,” he continued. “Heather and I feel a very strong obligation to make our predecessors proud of the growth we have created for the business. Each generation has prolonged the livelihood of our family business We are so lucky to have been given the ability to make Dewar’s a family tradition for generations to come.

Our customers have shown such dedication and loyalty to Dewar’s Candy Shop. It is our responsibility and desire to continue to provide them with our sweet treats for many years to come.”
And with the fifth generation in the wings—though the oldest is only 11 years old—we think that’s a sure thing.


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