Carl Doerr, Founder of Dare Foods Limited in 1892
Baking delicious goodies in his Berlin, Ontario grocery store, the baker opened C.H. Doerr Co. The name changed to the easier-to-pronounce Dare in 1945
Southwestern Ontario was the birthplace of Charles H. Doerr. Born on October 31, 1868, Doerr was the son of Carl Adam Morris Doerr and Anna Eve Schwaertzel. Both parents were German immigrants to Canada who raised a family of ten children.
Doerr`s Rear-of-Store Bakery
On the corner of Gzowski Street and Breithaupt, Charles Doerr opened his own small grocery store
in Berlin, Ontario (now Kitchener) in 1889. The young grocer sold “everything from soup to nuts,” said Mark Kearney and Randy Ray in “I Know That Name!” (Hounslow, Dundurn Press, Toronto 2002). In 1892, the grocer met Ted Egan from the close town of Guelph. The men began baking biscuits and making candies in the back of Doerr’s store. “Egan eventually left the company,” said Kearney and Ray, “and Doerr worked tirelessly to take advantage o of the expanding Canadian market from the turn of the century until World War I.” Doerr named his new business C.H. Doerr Company, Limited.
The baking and cooking placed in the care of his workers, Doerr put on the salesman’s hat and developed routes and customers, going from store to store selling his delicious goods. New samples were offered on the routes twice a year. The biscuits, candies and cookies became favourites across the province and the popularity of Doerr Company products began to spread across Canada and across the border into the United States.
Woolworth and Kresge were Customers
Doerr’s bakery produced drop cookies. They baked cookies with a stamped image on top, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, marshmallow cookies and more. The candy-makers cooked up toffees, scrumptious gumdrops, hard candies and seasonal specialties for Easter and Christmas. “Soon, major national retail chains such as Woolworth and Kresge were distributing Doerr products across Canada,” according the Kearney and Roy.
Incorporating in 1919, the company expanded that same year when a lucrative chocolate candy contract was signed with Hamblin Metcalfe, the firm that later became the renowned “Smiles and Chuckles” brand.
Doerr Married Three Times
Charles Doerr was known as a pleasant man with numerous good friends… and three wives over his lifetime. Marrying his first wife Susanna Wagner, the Doerrs welcomed son Welbourne Oswell Doerr on September 24, 1890, and daughter Anna Eva Doerr on July 2, 1894. Sadly, baby Anna Eva died a few weeks after birth on August 12th. Reaching adulthood, Welbourne Oswell and is wife died in an influenza epidemic in 1918, leaving their son, Carl, for his grandparents to raise. Susanna Doerr died in 1928. She was 58 years of age, noted Kearney and Ray.
The second Mrs. Doerr was Annie Henrietta Marie Knell, a friend of the family. Annie Henrietta died in 1932 at age 55, only two years after her marriage to Charles. A factory employee, Louise Glebe, was the third Mrs. Doerr. Louise was born in 1891, 23 years younger than her new husband; she outlived Charles Doerr by 36 years. (Neither Annie nor Louise had children.)
Company President Carl Doerr
Joining the family business in 1933, Carl Doerr learned the arts of food manufacturing from his skilled grandfather. (Many of Charles’ siblings and family members also worked at the factory.) Eight years later, Charles H. Doerr died on June 11, 1941, leaving the company in the capable hands of his 24-year-old grandson.
A prominent citizen of Kitchener, Charles H. Doerr was also a long-term member of the Public Utilities Commission of the city.
Doerr Became Dare
In 1943, a disastrous fire in Kitchener swallowed up the cookie manufacturer, burning the Doerr facility to the ground. Temporarily housed in nearby Hamilton, the factory was rebuilt on the outskirts of Kitchener. The C.H. Doerr Company, Limited title, and the family name, was changed to “Dare” in 1945, “to ease pronunciation outside of the local community as the company starts to expand distribution to all regions of Canada, said Dare Foods Limited in “About Us.”
New developments and new markets have made the Dare Foods Limited company an international success. “From 7 factories in Canada and the U.S.,” said the Company, “our cookies, crackers, candies and fine breads are sold throughout North America, in Mexico, Sweden, the Far East and over 25 other countries around the world.”
In 2012, Dare Foods Limited celebrates 120 years of Canadian achievement, from its early beginnings in the back kitchen of Charles Doerr`s small grocery store to enormous delicious success today.
- Kearney, Mark and Ray, Randy, “I Know That Name!” Hounslow, Dundurn Press, Toronto 2002
- “About Us,” Dare Foods Limited Accessed January 9, 2012
- “Charles H. Doerr, 1868-1941,” Waterloo Region Generations Accessed January 9, 2012
- “From Doerr to Dare: The Story of a Canadian Business,” University of Waterloo. Accessed February 7, 2022.
This article first appeared on Suite101.com in January 2012. Copyright Susanna McLeod