Making It in the Bay

Community Steps Up to Help Keep Burlingame Candy Shop in Business

NBC Universal, Inc.

A 75-year-old candy and ice cream business, struggling to stay afloat is staying open in Burlingame after volunteers and the community stepped up.

Preston's Candy and Ice Cream Shop in Burlingame is one of the few true chocolatiers left in the Bay Area. But over the past two years, it seems COVID-19 turned everything from sweet to bitter.

Irene Preston has been the owner of the shop for more than 50 years and two weeks ago, she was getting ready to close.

“I owed so much money, you can’t believe,” she said.

Preston told NBC Bay Area Sunday that she was behind on rent and was facing a huge electricity bill. Ben Lambright overheard what she was going through and decided to do something about it.

“I was just a guy looking for ice cream in the beginning,” he said.

Lambright started volunteering, lifting heavy boxes and that’s when he realized he needed to do more, if this beloved candy store was going to stay open.

“Irene was in need of some serious help and I came up with the idea, I said, you know 'what if we put together a rescue box?'” Lambright said.

Since Mar. 30, a team of volunteers have put together and sold nearly 800 of the boxes both in stores and through a newly created website.

Volunteers like Susi Wong, a retired chocolatier, who saw a Facebook post about the situation and immediately picked up the phone.

“I called Irene and told her that I was going to show up at 12,” Wong said.

Others have been showing up to help empty Preston's shelves.

Michael Bennett said he’s been a client since he was 5 years old and he’s now 76, so when he heard the news, he knew what he had to do.

“We got to get down there, we got to buy a dozen rescue boxes,” he said. "It’s tradition, it’s nostalgic. It takes me back to when my mother, my grandmother and I use to come."

The plan now is to create “Preston’s Forever,” a monthly subscription that will allow the Bay Area treasure to continue to make everyone's life sweeter for as long as possible.

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