The scent of cooked sugar, caramelized molasses and a faint wisp of savory spices sweetens and thickens the air. This hot, dry breeze carries over the production line as hairnet-clad employees stack boxes, crush cardboard, mix dough, inspect packages and wield forklifts throughout the 20,000 square foot facility off Kimwell Drive in Winston-Salem. Between this facility and the Dewey’s Bakery factory on Jonestown Road, both could produce up to 1 billion cookies a year at capacity,” says Frank Jones, production manager and tour guide for the day.
Hundreds of thousands of little nuggets of cookie dough are pressed out and dropped onto a fast-moving conveyer belt. In eight minutes, the dough becomes puffy, crispy and transforms into the cookies that grace various dining and coffee tables during the holidays each year. Then, they’re cooled down and packed into clear plastic tubs for national distribution to a grocery chain.
Making people smile since 1930, the new lines of Dewey’s products expand past traditional Moravian cookies and sugar cake at year-end holiday time. Today Dewey’s is in “over 12,000 doors,” owner and CEO Scott Livengood says. Drawing on his experience as former CEO of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, he and his team have turned around and transformed and upped the profile of the Dewey’s Bakery brand. Locally, the Reynolda and Thruway Shopping Centers are the only retail locations, but the product is sold in stores like Walmart, Lowes Foods, Albertsons, Kroger and Wegmans. More than 12 years ago, he and his wife Michelle purchased the Winston-Salem-based brand which consisted of two retail locations and a wholesale business arm, Salem Baking Company.
Back then, the wholesale business mainly packaged and sold holiday cookies in red tins to culinary juggernaut, William-Sonoma.
“I love to make changes,” says Livengood. “We had never sold cookies year-round. Here we had these holiday cookies but before making an investment we wanted see if they had legs year-round.”
Working on the wholesale brand, Salem Baking Company, included courting national retailers and hoping one or more would take a chance on the regional brand.
“We didn’t have much brand equity and sales in that name,” says Livengood. “Once we decided we wanted to do Dewey’s Bakery, we expanded.”
The first expansion included ginger cookies and Meyer lemon cookies.
It took two years to develop, test and distribute the first brand and packaging of the new line of cookies for wholesale. The cookies had to be soft (according to the requirements of the retailer), the label had to be clean and the cookies had to have a six-month shelf-life with a guarantee of five months to the retailer. After three years, the same company went back to Dewey’s to request more and now the company produces private label products for a number of other concerns.
“It has gone extraordinarily well,” says Livengood. “We had no sales history and they trusted us. We delivered and now we’re all over the country with 12,000 retailers.”
Currently, Dewey’s makes more than a dozen flavors of Moravian cookies, soft-baked cookies, premium snack crackers, cheese straws, shortbread cookies, coffee cakes and sugar cakes.
New this year, a four-pack Doughnut Shop soft-baked cookie collection pays homage to Livengood’s former company, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. The cookies come in old-fashioned glazed and chocolate glazed, which uncannily taste like actual doughnuts. The secret trick to enjoying the cookies is to microwave them for eight seconds, just like the original doughnut company suggests.
Since building the plant off Kimwell Drive, Dewey’s has become large enough for the company to grow for a long time. From a little shop on Fourth Street in downtown Winston-Salem to major retailers across the country, Dewey’s Bakery is the little brand that could.