September 3, 2020
Talk about a sweet gig. Peter Behringer is the man behind Sweet Pete’s Candy in Jacksonville. This three-story shrine to sugar has bragging rights as the largest candy store in the Southeast.
But running a candy empire isn’t just about lollipops and chocolate bars, as Behringer well knew. He grew up in the candy business; his mother, Phyllis Geiger, founded Peterbrooke Chocolatier in 1983. The company now has dozens of franchises across the Southeast.
When Behringer decided to start his own candy company, to differentiate himself he focused on field trips, candy making classes and parties.
“That’s how we were able to grow a business on essentially a shoestring,” says Behringer, who founded Sweet Pete’s with his wife, Allison, in 2010.
Today, the business is a bucket-list destination for anyone with a sweet tooth.
“It’s sort of like a candy wonderland,” Behringer says. “We created this candy fantasy that we can bring everybody into.”
Located inside a century-old building in downtown Jacksonville, Sweet Pete’s contains a retail store, dessert bar, observation area to the production floor and a party space for birthday celebrations, bridal or baby showers and corporate events.
Yes, adults love candy, too.
“There’s no shame in loving candy,” Behringer, who notes that moderation and exercise are the keys to enjoying sweets as an adult.
The temptation to overindulge isn’t the only obstacle the Behringers have overcome. In 2014, Sweet Pete’s was featured on CNBC program The Profit, a reality show for struggling businesses.
“In our case, we had to get rid of our partner because we just couldn’t see eye to eye,” Behringer says. The show’s host, Marcus Lemonis, bought out the Behringers’ business partner and helped Sweet Pete’s get back on track.
While in-person tours and parties have slowed due to the pandemic, the Sweet Pete’s online store sees a steady stream of customers seeking a sugar fix.
Candymaking is also an entertaining hobby for folks stuck at home, Behringer says. For beginning candymakers, he suggests homemade marshmallows and chocolate-dipped treats.
“When you make candy and you’re with your family,” he says,” it’s fun times.”
Explore The Zest
Host: Dalia Colón
Producer: Dalia Colón & Robin Sussingham
Photo Credits: Dalia Colón