The Candy Man Can

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// photo by Agnes Lopez

When Pete Behringer left his family’s chocolate business (Peterbrooke Chocolatier) and struck out on his own with Sweet Pete’s Candy, a renovated house on Pearl Street in Springfield may have seemed large enough. Now he and his wife Allison have a new business partner, a huge new building in the heart of Downtown and lots of orders to fill as the demand for their confections has exploded. But his new found candy stardom hasn’t gone to his head—when we met Behringer at his new digs he was by the register, chatting with customers, shaking hands and thanking patrons for making his new store one of the sweetest places in Jax.

• In his old job, the focus was more on chocolate, but Behringer had his eye on other aspects of the biz. “Over time, I thought of myself as more of a candy maker than a chocolatier,” he says. “I always wanted to be one of the people who made the candy centers. I was fascinated with that.”

• Many of his best ideas come from unlikely sources. “A lot of times customers will ask for something that we don’t sell—some type of candy they had when they were a kid,” says Behringer. “When we were starting the business, I was trying to make the perfect caramel, and I was convinced I’d done it. A friend said, ‘You really ought to put sea salt on this.’ I did, and it took it to a whole new level. It’s our top seller now.”

• “My favorite part is bringing people into the process,” he says. “We do a lot of field trips here at Sweet Pete’s. Not only do we show people a chocolate and candy-making facility, we invite them to participate.”

• Pete and Allison, who handles the store’s marketing, have an 11-year-old son, Daniel. You’d think that a kid’s dream would be to grow up in a candy store, but Pete says Daniel isn’t thrilled with the long hours his parents put in. “He gets tired of it. But he’s got some video games upstairs.” It’s not all bad, of course: “He likes turtles and cherry cordials. He’s got a sophisticated palate.”

• Last year, Sweet Pete’s was featured on an episode of CNBC’s The Profit. “It changed the whole world for us,” Behringer says. “It’s been like night and day. All this has happened because of our partnership with Marcus [Lemonis, the show’s star and investor].”

• The new building, located in the old Seminole Club at 400 N. Hogan Street, was one of the top ten most endangered buildings in Jacksonville until Sweet Pete’s moved in. “We feel the need to preserve historic places and we wanted to position our business in a way that does that with integrity, but in a fresh way, because these things can’t be recreated. So much of Jacksonville has been lost. It’s nice to be able to save a piece of history.”