When one thinks of jelly beans, the brand that would instantly come to mind for most is Jelly Belly. With sales throughout the world and roots dating back to the 19th century, Jelly Belly has the market cornered on shelled confectionary treats.
And it is all headquartered in Fairfield, where factory tours have been a common activity for all ages, both regional residents and visitors, since the facility opened in 1986. Now the company has taken Jelly Belly’s long history a step further by opening its own museum across from the Visitor Center featuring vintage candy-making equipment, memorabilia and plenty of places for photo ops.
The museum, now a component of the factory tour, officially opened Friday.
John Jamison, vice president of operations, said the idea came from Jelly Belly Owner Herm Rowland, Sr.
“(He) had a vision to create a museum experience,” he said. “We were able to pull together very compelling items from our archives.”
Jamison said many of the items were located in Fairfield while others were stored at the company’s warehouse in North Chicago.
The museum’s opening was preceded by a ribbon cutting presided over by company leaders, Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, Vice Mayor Rick Vaccaro and council members Doriss Panduro, Chuck Timm and Scott Tonnesen.
“Jelly Belly has made Fairfield the sweetest place west of the Mississippi River, but I would like to believe that Jelly Belly is worldwide now, including Thailand,” Price said.
Jelly Belly President Lisa Brasher said the museum would provide a glimpse of the company’s history.
“I”m just so proud of all of our folks that put this together and really have the same passion that we do as a family as well to just show about candy making,” she said. “We’re proud to be here in the community of Fairfield.”
After the ribbon cutting, Vaccaro presented Rowland and Brasher with a key to the city.
The museum, located at the opposite end of the corporate office and across from the Visitor Center, is filled with artifacts and stories from the company’s past, dating back to its origins as a small confectionary business operated by Gustav Goelitz in Belleville, Illinois in 1869. This business grew into the Goelitz Confectionary Company and specialized in mellocreme candies, including candy corn.
Goelitz’s son, Herman, formed the Herman Goelitz Candy Company in Portland, Oregon in 1921 and began operating out of a factory in Oakland in 1924. By the ’60s, the company began specializing in a different kind of confection — jelly beans — and the company began selling the Jelly Belly brand in 1976, which become the company’s official name 25 years later.
In 1986, the company moved its headquarters to Fairfield, which saw an expansion of its factory in 1992 and Visitor Center in 1999.
The museum features many artifacts used to create the company’s candies over the years, including a ball cream beater, vacuum chamber, chocolate melter and a Howe scale.
Other artifacts include displays on past seasonal Goelitz candies, Mould boards used to create past confections like the Gummi Rattler and Gummi Pet Rat, and various jelly bean mosaics forming the likenesses of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and George Washington.
The museum even has a display dedicated to former President Ronald Reagan, well known for his love of jelly beans, which he credited with helping him stop smoking. During his presidency, Reagan would give jars full of jelly beans to visiting dignitaries, and Jelly Belly developed a jar of its own — complete with a presidential seal — that would be delivered to Reagan whenever he ran out. That jar is now displayed at the museum.
There are also QR codes that visitors can scan with their phones, which take them to links on the various factories over the years to Rowland’s private video collection.
It is not just jelly bean artifacts on display. Rowland, who also operates the American Armory Museum in Fairfield and Rowland Freedom Center in Vacaville, has displays of vintage vehicles from his collection such as a 1934 Ford V8 Touring Sedan, 1935 Chris-Craft boat and 1982 Maserati Quattroporte.
“You’ll see stuff in here (and say), ‘What’s that? That’s not candy!’” Rowland said prior to the opening. “It might just be something I like.”
The end of the museum tour has a variety of spots for photo-ops, including in front of a spinning jelly bean backdrop, on a replica of the tram that will now be used to transport visitors to the factory tour and on a bench next to Mr. Jelly Belly, the company’s mascot.
Friday was quite busy as visitors got to view the museum for free, enjoy cake and coffee, and the first 300 guests received complimentary two-pound bag of Belly Flops, a mix of randomly packed jelly bean flavors.
Shantelle Fields of Suisun City brought her 3-year-old son after learning about the museum on Facebook. She had been on the factory tour before, but the museum was a new experience for her and her son.
“He loved the train ride,” she said.
Melissa Hernandez of Suisun brought her sons Angelo, Orlando and Santiago, having done the factory tour a few times in the past.
“I’ve never been on this side in particular,” she said. “We’ve always done the regular tour, but this is really amazing.”
Hernandez hopes her sons take away “the experience of seeing how Jelly Belly has been around for so many years.”
Jamison said the museum’s opening was bringing strong attendance to the Visitor Center, which also houses the factory tours, California Welcome Center, an art gallery, chocolate shop, and a cafeteria that sells burgers and pizzas shaped like jelly beans. All were busy as well Friday.
“There’s things for guests, locals and tourists alike,” he said.
Jamison said he hopes visitors take away a new understanding of the work that goes into creating the jelly beans.
“We hope that people will appreciate the fact that we’ve been a family business since the 1800s and learn about the candy automation processes that have improved over the years,” he said.
The Jelly Belly Museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at 1 Jelly Belly Lane. Tickets are $7 per adult and $3 per child for both the museum and factory tour. Parking is free.