In 1956, a small candy and ice cream store began selling a rich ice cream bar and word spread quickly. Neighborhood children and adults alike would crowd into the small shop and buy a hand-dipped bar, savoring its rich creamy flavor and gladly pay a higher price. Leo Stefanos, a Greek immigrant who owned the shop, originally created the bar for his sons, who loved ice cream and chased after trucks when they heard the familiar jingling of bells announcing their presence on the street. Soon he began offering them to his customers, and they became a quiet sensation. Although they cost a bit more than the standard Eskimo pie and Good Humor, people plopped down their money, long before premium ice cream made its debut. They were that good.
Thirty years later, the young boys were grown up and began distributing the Dove Bars to grocers and drug store in the Chicago area, where they were embraced along with other premium brands of ice cream, whose time had come. No longer made in the back of the original store, production became big business, with eight employees hand-dipping on the production line round the clock, and by 1986 the family had gone from producing 500 a day to a staggering 72,000 bars a day and moved to a distribution plant in the suburbs of Chicago. Concerned about maintaining the quality, which had long been attributed to their father’s candy-making skills, the brothers finally agreed to go national when the Mars Candy Company wisely scooped them up before anyone else could, and sales exploded, surprising even the Mars family.
Over the years, the Dove brand has expanded into more flavors of ice cream, chocolate coatings and chocolate candies, but the name Dove (not to be confused with the soap) will forever be the poster child for decadent rich ice cream and one of America’s favorite go-to indulgences.
The Mars Company was a natural for Dove Bars. Opened in 1911 by Franklin Mars, who had learned hand dipping chocolate skills from his mother, they began creating popular candy, starting with the Snickers bar in 1930, followed by Milky Way and Three Musketeers. Still a privately owned conglomerate by the Mars family, they have taken Dove bars to new heights without compromising quality. But like many beloved products that began locally, nothing will ever replace those early days when neighborhood kids could ride their bikes over to the Dove Candies shop and buy a Dove Bar.