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Beloved Burlingame sweets shop hangs on despite pandemic hardships

Beloved Burlingame candy shop hangs on despite pandemic
Beloved Burlingame candy shop hangs on despite pandemic 02:24

BURLINGAME (KPIX 5) -- Preston's Candies and Ice Cream has been Burlingame's spot for sweets and treats for 75 years, but over the past two years of the pandemic, business hasn't been so sweet.

Irene Preston has been in charge at the shop for nearly a quarter of a century, most of that before the current COVID-related rough patch.. 

"The pandemic has really affected me, quite drastically, as well as the cost of living," she said.

Preston is behind on a lot of bills.

"I owe a lot of money. It's been very difficult," she said.

A bitter pill to swallow, Preston realized she couldn't generate enough revenue to keep the lights on if she couldn't come up with a new recipe for business.

"I was looking at a matter of months," she said. "I'd have to close it."

But then over the holidays, she met Ben Lambright.

"I came in here around the holidays just to buy ice cream. And Irene was talking to somebody else, and I overheard her say she really needed some help," Lambright said.

Lambright, Preston, and the other staff and volunteers are busy putting together and sending out "Irene's Rescue Boxes," filled with chocolates and candies. It's one of the ways they hope to keep the candy shop afloat.

"I thought I'd be able to make Irene $500 extra bucks maybe if we were lucky, and put some cash in her bank account," Lambright said.

To his surprise, the rescue boxes have lived up to their name, and then some more.

"Irene and I have both sat here and cried more than once at the level of support we've seen," Lambright explained. "This is a woman who has been standing on her own two feet for this long. And now the community is coming to lift her up – after she's been lifting them up for so long."

Since they started putting the rescue boxes together on March 30, Lambright says they've packaged and sold more than 350. And that didn't include the additional 100 he was putting together on Thursday. He says some people are buying individual boxes, others are buying numerous boxes.

"Whether it's one box or 20 boxes, it's making every bit of a difference in this 77-year-old woman's life," he said.

Another major change they've made: they've created an online store – the first time Preston's has had any online business.

"We needed to adjust to the modern ways of commerce," Preston said.

They're selling the rescue boxes online, along with a monthly subscription box, which they hope stabilizes income and inventory, according to Lambright.

"I want to say thank you very much," Preston said.

The boxes alone won't save her business, but the outpouring of support from the community is helping her plan for Preston's to have a future in Burlingame.

"Yes, I hope so. I'm planning on it," she said. "I'm ordering materials for Halloween and Christmas."

Her favorite part about owning Preston's? The same reason, why Preston's can push forward.

"All the people," she said.

So far, they've shipped rescue boxes to customers in at least 35 states, said Lambright. They hope to reach customers in all 50 states. People interested in lending the store a hand can visit the Preston's Candies and Ice Cream online shop.

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