Whether you talk to Devar Ward about his family, his business or his background, it always comes back to one thing: community. And for four years, his specialty shop, D.W. Cookie Co., has been a part of the Canyon Country community landscape.
DW Cookie Co.
As early as 10 a.m. on a weekday, the front door is like a turnstyle – the line of happy customers never completely disappearing. Loud hellos are exchanged, many engaging in hugs with Devar Ward, or with little Darian, his son, who turns 3 years old this month.
“I got that book you told me to get,” Ward says to one of his customers who walks in the door. “I took notes like you told me to.”
All this, while the shop owner passes his new baby, 2-month-old Dacey, to another regular, who asks to hold him.
Now, that’s community.
“It’s like my second home,” said Andi Madden of Canyon Country, who comes in frequently for her morning coffee and a cookie. “I love the cookies. I love the family atmosphere. Stacy and Devar have become like family. And I like supporting an independently-run business.”
Russell Benson and Samantha Sumampong said they come into DW Cookie “as often as we can.”
“I like the warm, homey feeling,” Benson said, “and the cookies are delicious and fresh and the flavors are so incredible. Every time we come here we leave smiling.”
Among Benson’s and Sumampong’s favorite flavors are DW’s white chocolate cranberry, cinnamon pecan crunch, and “Just Toffee” cookies. “(I like) the strong sense of community at the shop and the conversations we have,” Sumampong said. “We like supporting small businesses.”
Besides his oldest daughter, a pre-teen named Danielle, and his sons Darian and Dacey, Devar Ward has the support of his wife Stacy, who busily helps customers from behind the counter. But the influence of family started long ago in Brooklyn, New York.
“I used to cook with my Gramma,” Devar said. “Especially holidays – Christmas, Thanksgiving. And I’ve always liked sweets.”
When he was 12 or 13 years old, Devar moved to California to be with his father. “It was going to be a summer with my dad and I ended up staying,” he said with a grin.
He went to Reseda High School and eventually landed a job with Pacific Bell, working in customer service and billing. In the company’s original business model, when Pac Bell was limited to California, Devar said it was a wonderful place of employment. But as it got larger, first when Pac Bell merged with SBC Global and then when SBC Global bought AT&T, he said the business changed for the worse.
But while the corporate climate was disappointing, the atmosphere was ripe for something better.
“One week I wanted chocolate chip cookies, so I went to the store and bought some Pillsbury, but it was no good,” Devar said. “I went to the market and bought ingredients to make them from scratch and I brought them to work. Everyone said, ‘Make these some more.’ I started selling them and it kind of blossomed from there.”
The biggest boon, according to Devar Ward, came from his leap of faith, “Trusting God,” he said. “You’ve got to have faith. It’s important.”
Despite being an ethnic minority in the Santa Clarita Valley, Devar Ward sees little difference between his life and those of others. He moved his family to Canyon Country from the San Fernando Valley for the same reasons most residents do – the schools and lower home prices.
And, of course, there’s one of Ward’s favorite words again. “Here it’s more community-oriented,” he said. “Everybody’s been great, neighbors have all been friendly. Society’s changed, so everybody’s more accepting these days. I haven’t ever had any issues.”
Ward pointed out that in California his community has included a broader mix of individuals than it did in Brooklyn. But that doesn’t mean his family saw racism up close in New York, either.
“My grandma had a story, when she worked at A&S (Abraham & Straus department store) in the art department,” he said. “There were times when they struggled to pay for the mortgage or bills, and most of the people she worked around were white. Any time they heard she needed help, they helped.”
Ward admits that things would look different to his great-great grandparents, who would have described lives affected by slavery. But, he sees everyone’s journey as a separate experience.
“I understand how people look in the past,” he explained, “but everybody walks their path, and you meet people and you experience things. Everybody lives their struggle.”
And while Devar Ward is just like any other business owner, hoping to claim the American Dream, he has perspective.
It’s nice to want things and to have big goals,” he said. “But what counts more is who you are inside. It doesn’t matter what color you are.”