Left: Dewar’s was located on Chester Avenue until it relocated to Eye Street in 1930. James H. Dewar is standing on the left. Right top: Dewar’s Candy Shop on Eye Street in 1930. Right bottom: James H. Dewar dipping chocolates in 1935.
Dewar’s By Lisa Kimble
efore Dewar’s became a household name here and Bakersfield’s international ambassador of sweetness known and loved the world over, it was a small candy store on Chester Avenue. Brothers James and George Dewar opened The Chocolate Shop in 1909 next door to the new County Hall of Records building. They hailed from Kansas, where George worked on a dairy farm and James taught himself how to bake. Together they created the wildly popular peanut butter taffy chew – hand cut and about threequarters of an inch long. Peppermint was introduced in 1911, followed by caramel three years later. George moved to Taft, but James continued to manage the store. James Harvey Dewar married Lena Yancey in 1910 and the couple had four children: Joseph, James A., Mary Ellen and Rosalind. James moved the shop to Baker Street where it operated until 1928 when the family moved to Ventura to open a
small candy store there – Dewar’s. The family wasn’t away long. They were called back to Bakersfield after James’ father-in-law died. His motherin-law, Rose, needed help and she offered to build James and Lena a shop at the corner of Eye Street and California Avenue if they would stay. Dewar’s Candy Shop opened at its present-day location in 1930, the same year James decided to make ice cream. It was hand cranked by salt brine. Sons Joe and James A. joined their father in the family business and their sister Rosalind helped hand dip chocolates and continued to do so until she retired in 2007. Rosie Dewar Anderson is the oldest surviving member of the family. Joe left the candy business to become a cabinetmaker in Northern California and brother James A. took over in 1947. He bought property next to the Eye Street location around 1959. It allowed for the addition of a parking lot, a warehouse and 20 feet of store expansion. According to an article in The Bakersfield Californian after James A. Dewar’s death in 2007, James A. didn’t throw products away. If chews weren’t perfectly wrapped, they were
considered “seconds” and given to lucky friends and relatives. He was especially proud of the deer mounted on the south wall of the store, which he killed in 1952. At the time, it was considered the biggest deer killed in five states, his family recalled. James A. was also a drag-boat-racing pioneer and held two world records. Son George began working at the shop full time after college in 1965 and took over the reigns in 1977. The price of a scoop of ice cream was raised from a nickel to 10 cents. George’s children Michael and Heather joined the company and in 2002 a second Dewar’s was opened on Hageman Road. The Riverlakes store was closed in 2011 and the following year, a larger soda fountain was opened on Calloway Drive. Later that same year, Dewar’s Express, the company’s first drive-thru, opened on Ming Avenue. In August 2014, a fourth location opened at The Outlets at Tejon. Recognized around the globe, Disney began selling Dewar’s ice cream at its El Capitan Theater in Hollywood 11 years ago and the perennially popular taffy chews are sold at momand-pop stores from coast to coast.
BY THE NUMBERS
11 chew varieties Today, there are eight regular flavors of chews and three sugar-free varieties.
Bakersfield Life Magazine
5,500 square feet The taffy and chocolates are produced in the 4,000-square-foot downtown facility. The ice cream is made in a 1,500-squarefoot area behind the Eye Street shop.
Gallons of ice cream a year.
Pounds of chews a year.