A couple of Burlingame’s classic candy makers worked out a sweetheart deal and are now sharing space on Broadway.
Irene Preston, owner of Preston’s Candy and Ice Cream, is hosting Lorri Basques, owner of Aida Opera Candies, in her shop and candy kitchen at 1170 Broadway.
The sharing started last month, when Basques relocated from the space she was subleasing at Caffe Roma in Millbrae in the wake of a departure from her downtown Burlingame storefront in 2017.
While the two are still working out the kinks of cohabitation, Basques said she is grateful for the opportunity to continue operating her family business in a friendly, familiar environment.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Basques, whose grandfather founded the candy company in 1947.
The connection between the two businesses was established when Basques’ son started cooking candy on the specialized hardware in the kitchen at Preston’s. In an effort to find a more permanent location following the company’s exit from downtown due to costly operating expenses, the two merchants believed there may be some synergy established by sharing space.
To further serve their mutual interests, Preston said the two candy makers agreed to make similar but different candies which will expand the amount of goodies available at the site without the merchants stepping on each others’ toes.
“This will allow our customers to have more choices,” said Preston.
It will also require some adjustment for Preston, who acquired the company in 1997 from its original founder, Art Preston, who opened the business at its current location in 1946. The current owner is not related to the founder.
“We are still working things out,” said Preston.
But she is confident the two will hit their stride in sharing the candy kitchen, which features copper equipment roughly 100 years old, and the upstairs chocolate studio, where both companies craft and mold unique treats made from Burlingame’s chocolatier Guittard.
With the winter holidays in the rear view mirror, Preston said focus shifted to Valentine’s Day and Easter as heart and bunny molds stuffed in boxes lining the walls will soon be pulled down and filled with sweet, oozy dark and milk chocolate.
The pairings selected to fill the chocolate molds — buttercream, fudge, caramel, marshmallow, berries — is at the whim of the confectioner and where Preston said she still appreciates applying her artistry after more than 20 years.
“There’s a lot of goodness here. It’s creative. It’s a lot of work. But I enjoy making things people appreciate,” she said.
A former elementary school teacher, Preston said she also enjoys the educational components available through the shop by offering many high schoolers their first employment experience.
After decades of operating, Preston said former employees will return with their children to introduce another generation to the joys of the candy shop.
The ability to establish close connections with local families is one of the reasons Basques appreciated the opportunity to stay in Burlingame, especially in the district focused on promoting smaller, independent businesses.
“It’s a whole different experience than Burlingame Avenue,” said Basques, who claimed parking issues downtown grew so bad in recent years that it began to cost her customers.
On Broadway, where things move a bit slower and parking is more convenient, Basques said she is optimistic the two companies can work together to succeed in a time when retail is growing increasingly difficult due to online competition.
“We are just two small businesses trying to make it,” she said.
Preston agreed, and said at the very least, the arrangement is a treat for local candy lovers.
“Customers seem to be happy. They used to have to go two places, and now they can just come to one.”
Preston’s Candy and Ice Cream is at 1170 Broadway, Burlingame. Go to sites.google.com/view/prestonscandy for more information.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105