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Dewar's joins other local businesses in signing lease at new Bolthouse Properties center in southwest Bakersfield

Southwest Bakersfield will get a new Dewar's Candy Shop — and a new Me-n-Ed's pizzeria, a Wooddale Market and a Sully's Chevron station — as part of the first phase of a 15-acre commercial and retail center that broke ground Wednesday at the northwest corner of Stockdale Highway and Heath Road.

Although each of those businesses already has a location not far from the site, their owners felt the location of The Ranch at Stockdale River Ranch offered enough promise to justify additional investment, said developer representative Bruce Davis.

"We take it as a testament to, A, the quality of the location we're looking to build and, B, the relationships that we've built within the retail tenants," said Davis, senior vice president of landowner Bolthouse Properties.

He pointed out that each of the initial tenants is based in Bakersfield: "We like doing business with local tenants. We're a local company."

City dignitaries joined him and other company executives Wednesday for speeches, a shovel ceremony and free Dewar's ice cream at the edge of Stockdale River Ranch, a master-planned development that will eventually include a 312-unit apartment community spread over 18 acres, more than 450 single-family homes, a 22-acre community park, a bike trail and five acres dedicated to a church and a private school.

A couple of small spaces remain available for rent but the project's first phase is effectively leased, Davis said.

Grading on the site will begin early next year, followed by a start to construction in the second or third quarter of 2022. The center's first phase is expected to be complete in early 2023.

Timing of The Ranch's second phase has not been finalized, but the development itself will happen to the west or south of the first phase, Davis said.

Most of the tenants announced Wednesday rent space from Bolthouse Properties at the company's Grand Island Village project located roughly four miles away. Davis said that's still too far.

"From a retail perspective (that's) a long way away," he said, "and if you’re a retailer and you go to (the new) location, you’ve protected yourself.”