Jolly Rancher

Jolly Rancher

Once upon a time, Jolly Rancher was a Colorado confectionery company that supplied the locals with fine, hand-dipped chocolates and “rancher-maid” ice cream. As fate would have it, they are barely remembered for those treats. Instead, sales of their flavorful hard candy sticks would far surpass their other wares, and their wildest dreams. Decades later, Jolly Rancher is a household name and a beloved candy for many a former kid.

The Jolly Rancher store, owned and operated by Bill and Dorothy Harmsen, first opened its doors in 1949 in Golden, Colorado. The name stemmed from their desire to have their candy store connote a certain western hospitality. Drawing from the name of one of their favorite hotels, The Jolly Miller, the Harmsen’s settled on the name Jolly Rancher. They sold fine chocolates and ice cream treats from their store, but it was the hard candies that became the surprising hit. So much so that it wasn’t long before they had to move to a bigger location to handle the demand.

Though they’re not as easily found today, the hot seller for the Jolly Rancher Candy Company became the Fire Stix, a fire-y blast of cinnamon and heat blended into sweet, hard taffy perfection. Soon, two other would-be-classic flavors emerged, Watermelon and Green Apple, though it was clear that Fire Stix was the incendiary hit. Following the success of the Stix, Jolly Rancher began producing smaller-sized candies, perfect for when you didn’t have the time to devote to a full-sized stick.

In 1966, the Harmsens sold the Jolly Rancher Candy Company to Beatrice Foods. Some 20 years later, Leaf picked up the Jolly Rancher brand. More recently, in 1996, they were purchased by Hershey, who continues production to this day. With these changes, the candy has evolved and diversified in ways the Harmsen family would barely recognize.

For one thing, their original flavors proved fruitful and multiplied. Cherry, Strawberry and Fruit Punch were added to the original three flavors of “Stix”. The smaller, individually-wrapped candies come in a multitude of additional flavors, like Lime, Grape, Cherry, Orange, Mango, as well as some “twists” like Mountain Berry, Strawberry-Watermelon and Raspberry-Lemonade. Hershey’s has also added a number of new products with the Jolly Rancher name, such as jellybeans and jelly candies, lollipops and fruit chews. They even have sour flavors and most recently, in 2006, they introduced a line of Jolly Rancher sodas, an effervescent version of our favorite Jolly Rancher flavors.

Of course for many, none of these new-fangled varieties can really compare with slowly peeling down the wrapper of a Fire Stix, slowly devouring it down to the very end, nor can they compare to vying with siblings, cousins, friends and/or strangers for the last Watermelon or Green Apple Jolly Rancher in the bowl or bag. Those were worth fighting for.

If you’ve long been a fan of these hard candy morsels, we hope you’ll share your Jolly Rancher memories in our comments section below, as we tip our hats to a sweet old friend.

8 Responses to “Jolly Rancher”

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  1. Drahken says:

    I first encountered jolly rancher candies in high school, back in the early 90s, they were the square candies at that time, and had good flavors like lemon. Later they changed to the current rectangular shape, discarded lemon (and I think a couple other flavors, but I don’t recall for certain), and added in friggin green apple. I utterly despise green apple, and find it indescribably frustrating that every friggin candy company is shoving into their mixes.
    I’ve never seen nor heard of any other type of jolly rancher candy.

  2. The current standard bag replaced the really good lemon with some awful blue candy. I let my kids have that one.

  3. IIZIIK says:

    does anybody remember the large (KING) size jolly rancher sticks?

  4. Chris says:

    My favorite memories of my brother, who died unexpectedly when I was 12, were the christmas gifts he got me. He was 7 years my senior, and we never really got along. In fact, most of my memories are of how mean he was to me. However, for at least one day a year, he was awesome in my eyes. He always got me a couple inexpensive, but cool and unique things, the type of stuff parents just wouldn’t think about. One of the last things he got me was a huge brick of jolly ranchers. They were the square kind with a little dimple in the middle and they were wrapped in foil. They came in an unmarked box, probably five cubic inches big. They were all fruit punch flavored and they’re were at least a hundred of them, probably more. To this day I wonder how he got them, it wasn’t the type of package you could by in a store. I remember being in awe of the huge amount of candy in that little box, almost like they were infinite. I do know I was still eating jolly ranchers until the spring that year.

  5. ChrysStyle says:

    You didn’t mention all the flavors of the stix. There was Green Apple, Cherry, Strawberry, Orange, Watermelon, Lemon, Peach, and Grape.

  6. Jolly Ranchers were my favorite candy. I love the Fire, Green Apple ( that I would place in a sandwich bad with some salt overnight – yum, yum!), watermelon & cherry. It’s too bad the children of today are only getting a tease with the “little bites”. Back in my day we had the true version – the long, thick stick! The best!

  7. joe.englert says:

    How about Carmel sticks…they did have them in the 60s….we loved em

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