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Elk Grove Citizen

Farewell Main Street Sweets

Jan 23, 2020 12:00AM ● By By Dana Guzzetti

Owners of Main Street Sweets, Carol and Marty Bender. Photo by Dana Guzzetti

MARTINEZ, CA (MPG) - Main Street Sweets is the kind of store that transports customers to the world of Norman Rockwell. That famous artist often depicted friendly small-town family life. The local store that is nostalgically safe, charming, kind, and full of delicious goodies will close at the end of February, according to owners Carol and Marty Bender.

They have a “For Sale” sign out front, but if no one buys, only happy memories will be left in March. “It was great for our son growing up. The back of the candy store was always a place for him to hang out with his friends,” Carol recalled. “He just graduated from Alhambra High (2019).”

With ambivalent feelings, they are preparing for a change too. “Since we bought the business, rent has increased from $600 to $1,500 a month, and Marty cannot bring himself to raise prices,” Carol said. 

Other businesses have also seen increases in rent, city fees, PG&E, Republic Services, water, phone, and taxes during that time. Even the popular Armando’s, a longtime local music venue, may be closing soon for the same reasons.

“Perhaps it’s just time for us to do something else,” Carol commented. “This is a wonderful business for a young couple that is involved with the community the way we were.”

They bought the store ten years ago after Marty retired from East Bay Regional Parks and left a subsequent job, so they could go into business as a couple. The candy store had been there for at least 25 years, and previous owners include Linda Flilameo and Noralea Gipner, according to Carol. 

At first, there were few changes but later they began serving ice cream in the winter. Carol experimented with new and better English toffee recipes until she achieved what some customers describe as perfection.  “In one week before Christmas, I made 200 pounds of toffee in five-pound batches,” she recalled about 2019. “That’s the way I maintain the high quality and freshness.”

Inspired by local beavers, they made Beaver Cups containing milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanuts, peanut butter, Rice Krispies, marshmallows and Heath Bar topped with crushed Chick O’ Stick. Homemade chocolate lego men and other unique treats have graced the shelves of the cozy shop throughout the years.

While continuing to work at Kaiser Outpatient Clinic in Martinez, Carol still finds time to cook special candies and produce glass art and handcrafted jewelry. Marty makes the other candy and minds the store six days a week. “I like to say, ‘I make the easy ones,’” he commented about his candy making.

Marty’s convivial personality became a magnet for locals who stop in for treats and a quick chat about sports or the events of the day. “We have met so many good people here,” he remarked. 

“Everyone from judges and office workers, to old-timers and students, know Marty,” agreed Carol.

Over the years the couple maintained the inventory of traditional vintage favorites such as candy cigarettes and kept up with culinary trends, buying all the best organic ingredients at Trader Joe’s.

Carol Bender’s remarkable glass art, created mostly with reclaimed glass pieces, may be found at Main Street Sweets (until the end of February), at Arts and Crafts Cooperateve, Inc. Gallery (ACCI), 1652 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, and online at Facebook, crglassart.