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92-year-old Citrus Heights resident reflects on six decades with See’s Candies

Esther Pelkey stands in front of See’s Candies new store at 5499 Sunrise Blvd, in Citrus Heights. // M. Hazlip

Updated Aug. 22, 1:10 p.m.–
By Mike Hazlip— Esther Pelkey started working for See’s Candies in the 1950s, long before the company’s now-shuttered location at Sunrise Mall ever opened.

The Sentinel spoke with Pelkey at the new See’s Candies store on Sunrise Boulevard, where she shared about her six-decades of work with the company. Retiring in 2018, Pelkey said she started working in 1950, although official records only count her employment from 1953 onward.

The 92-year-old said she managed the first Roseville location for the candy company and also worked at other locations in downtown Sacramento. She recalls Citrus Heights being “way out in the country back then,” and describes the new location on Sunrise Boulevard “very pretty, but very similar to the old ones.”

Now a resident of Citrus Heights, Pelkey said she also lived in Orangevale and has seen the area go through changes, coming full circle with the recent closure of the Sunrise Mall See’s Candies location.

“Sunrise Mall was nothing back then,” Pelkey said. “But of course it’s not much now either. It kind of went from nothing to something and now nothing again.”

A broken leg and failing eyesight prompted Pelkey to retire five years ago, she said, adding that she might still be working if her health would allow it. Pelkey said she enjoyed her time with the company and would look forward to going to work.

Her children often received boxes of chocolates for Christmas and other occasions. At a price of just $1 per pound in those early days, Pelkey would give out gift certificates for a pound of chocolate, telling her children the certificates would increase in value as the price of chocolate increased. At $32 per pound today, the company no longer offers gift certificates by weight.

Marzipan and Polar Bear Paw are her favorite chocolates today, although she says it would change from day to day during her time with See’s Candies.

See’s Candies was founded in 1921 by Charles See, who opened the first shop in Los Angeles and sold candies made from his mother’s original recipes, according to the company’s website. More stores opened up across the state over the years, until See’s Candies was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway in 1972 and later expanded internationally.

See’s Candies was one of the original stores that opened at Sunrise Mall, which remained open until this summer.

Correction: a prior version of this story incorrectly referred to the new See’s Candies building as a corporate headquarters for the company. Initial information from the building’s property owner indicated the building would be home to corporate offices as well as a retail store, but a See’s Candies spokeswoman later confirmed the new location “solely serves as a retail location.”

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