Sweet Pete’s Story

By: Audrey Carpenter and Alex Gatlin

While you don’t need a golden ticket to gain admittance, Sweet Pete’s of Jacksonville, Fla., is no ordinary candy store. Walk in to the three-story building and you will see the most marvelous array of candy, savory malt balls and colorful lollipops. Most importantly, you can learn how to make these sweet treats.

Peter Behringer, owner and genius behind Sweet Pete’s, offers more than just a diverse set of candy to buy: he offers an experience.  He may not be Willy Wonka, but Behringer certainly has a story worthy of the name.

“I grew up in the candy business, or more specifically the chocolate business. My mom started a business here locally called Peterbrook,” Behringer said. “I learned a lot about candy, a lot about chocolate, so it’s really the only thing I’ve ever done professionally- candy making and chocolate.”

After a stint with his mother’s company, Peterbrook, Behringer decided he wanted to strike out on his own. Towards the end of 2009 and in the middle of the recession of 2008 he left Peterbrook and opened Sweet Pete’s in 2010.

“We started with a really small budget. I think we had probably a thousand dollars to buy inventory. It was just nothing. So, I made as much as I could out of sugar which was cheap,” Behringer said. “It had a decent markup so I could take the money and put it back into purchasing inventory. We slowly grew our business that way.”

A move like this, during such a turbulent time, may seem a little…wonky, but Behringer’s passion for candy and a little help from the CNBC hit reality series The Profit in 2014, helped sustain Sweet Pete’s.

Demetric Nathan, floor manager at Sweet Pete’s, understands how candy making can ignite a fire not easily put out.

“At first I didn’t know anything about candy making, but once you get to learn it, it becomes a passion,” Nathan said.

Nathan, who started working with Behringer in the early days, is now looking to move to become the manager at one of Sweet Pete’s new locations.  

But it wasn’t just the candy making that grew Sweet Pete’s to what it is today. Behringer’s hard work and dream of impacting others through candy is really what sets it apart.  

“To me I think a brand needs to be more than just a sticker or a logo, there’s got to be a human connection with it,” Behringer said. “There has to be something where it matters to somebody’s life in order for it to really truly be successful.”
At Sweet Pete’s this human connection is offered through the classes and parties they hold. It’s the interactive piece that makes it something that’s not just shopping, according to behringer, it’s sort of entertainment on another level.

Behringer takes it one step further, though, and uses Sweet Pete’s as his way to put a smile on someone’s face.

“We try to create that environment where we aren’t just selling candy but we are communicating by using candy,” Behringer said. “We’re communicating feelings of joy and happiness though using candy.”