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Friday, Feb 10 2006 11:24 AM

Dewar's to sweeten west side

By DEVONA WELLS, Californian staff writer e-mail: dwells@bakersfield.com

Dewar's, one of Bakersfield's oldest and most beloved retailers, has finalized plans to bring its sweets to suburbia. The candy and ice cream company has leased space in The Plaza at Riverlakes at the intersection of Hageman Road and Calloway Drive in a bid to introduce the uninitiated to its product and make it a convenient part of a grocery store or dry cleaning run. The new store is one of two planned for west Bakersfield and the first-ever attempt to duplicate the Dewar's soda fountain success. Construction of the entire shopping center is expected to start this week and Dewar's should open in November. Paul Pavletich, vice president of marketing for the company, promised to bring the old-fashioned charm of the original location to Bakersfield's booming west side. "When you walk in there, you're going to know you're in Dewar's," he said. The store will occupy a corner spot adjacent a string of shops connected to Ralphs Marketplace, the company's third Bakersfield grocery store. Walgreens and Supercuts also have committed to the project, said John S. Hale, a commercial real estate broker with Commercial Retail Associates, who is leasing the project. The remaining space likely will include a dry cleaners, salon, wireless phone store, gas station and drive-through coffee shop. Dewar's was opened in 1909 in a Chester Avenue shop by James H. Dewar and his brother, who made taffy and chews. Dewar was running the store on his own a decade later and moved it to Eye Street in 1930. Ice-cream manufacturing began in the 1920s. Handmade chocolates were added after the move to Eye Street. Little has changed over the years at the small, corner location. The walls are covered in mint green with the heads of a ram and a deer landed by hunter Jim A. Dewar, son of the company's founder, hanging over the soda fountain. The only seating is on stools at a waist-high counter behind which employees scoop ice cream and make milk shakes by hand. The same products will be available at the new location, though details like wall color and whether hunting trophies will be hung are matters still to be decided. Outside patio seating will be added at the northwest Bakersfield store, which will measure 2,885 square feet. Dewar's began scouting new shop locations about 18 months ago in southwest and northwest Bakersfield, looking for growth, families and schools, Pavletich said. Pavletich said he's not worried that Bakersfield won't take to a newer version of Dewar's. "People love that they can get the same quality product without living downtown," he said. Three years ago, Dewar's began testing the Bakersfield market for its ice cream outside the downtown area. Brookside Market and Deli in northwest Bakersfield started selling Dewar's ice cream by the scoop. Today, the ice cream is available at three of the Brookside Markets and peppermint ice milk can be bought by the scoop at Luigi's. The chews, soft candies wrapped in wax paper, have been for sale at various outlets since 1994. Ice cream sales make up about half the company's business with candy and chocolates and its catered punch constituting the rest. As many as 24 workers will be hired to staff the new store, which will be open 12 or 13 hours a day. Heather Dewar, who left teaching in June to join the family operation, will run the store. She now manages day-to-day office and retail operations at Dewar's. The company plans to open its third location in the Old River Road and Stockdale Highway area by late 2002 or early 2003. All company products are manufactured at its Eye Street location. Two new ice-cream-making machines will be added in about six weeks, Pavletich said, allowing the company to double ice cream production to up to 2,000 gallons daily.

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