Shows

Sweet Pete’s

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 row upon row of the most marvelous array of candy, from malt balls to lollipops. But even more than that, 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.”

Local Business

By: Courtney Stringfellow

From Facebook memes to TV shows, locals have seen their fair share of bad tattoos. The only time one can catch the majority of the population walking into a random tattoo shop without a referral is after a few drinks or on a dare.

When Paul Rogers started tattooing in the ‘20s, tattoos were considered taboo and American society regarded the artform with a hush-hush attitude. Just as gangsters had to locate speakeasies during prohibition, residents across the country had to seek out tattoo studios.

New York City banned residents from practicing this craft for more than three decades (1961-1997). The city’s government justified its decision with a Hepatitis B outbreak, according to Cristian Petru Panaite. The Big Apple wasn’t the only city trying to kill the artform. The government of Norfolk, Virginia, banned tattooing from 1950 to 2006.

But that was 12 years ago.

Tattoo artists no longer hide studios in their homes, and everyday people show off their new skin across social media platforms. It’s difficult to imagine a city banning the craft today.

Jeremy Swed is a tattooer and the manager of Inksmith and Rogers Tattoo Studio on Atlantic Blvd. He’s been interested in tattoos since he was a child.

He saw tattoos everywhere: dots on his father’s head for numerous radiation treatments, identification numbers from a Nazi concentration camp beneath his grandfather’s sleeve, and military tattoos on a veteran’s arm.

“My dad used to work on old VW cars, and one of his buddies was an ex military guy who had some old military tattoos,” Swed said. “But he was like a big, burly guy – had this, like, tough guy thing.”

Swed started collecting tattoo magazines as a teen in the late ‘80s. After high school, he landed an apprenticeship at a shop downtown. He’s only improved his work since.

“I’ve never had anybody stand up and go, ‘Oh, I hate it,’” Swed said. “Sometimes I’ve seen situations where people have come back afterwards and they’re like, ‘I’m just not really pleased with it 100 percent. Like I feel like maybe we could do this, this or this.’”

Swed grew up in Jacksonville. He worked at a few shops before finding his home at Inksmith and Rogers, which now has five locations around the city.

“I’m 42, and I remember driving by here when I was a teenager seeing Eric’s old cars out here, going to the beach with my mom and stuff. And now I work here.” Swed said. “It’s just, like, surreal.”

Paul Rogers shared his knowledge of the industry and tattoo machines with Eric Inksmith. That openness is something the Inksmith and Rogers Tattoo Studio continues to demonstrate. According to Swed, each of the studio’s tattooers has been in the industry for at least 10 years. At the end of the day, they’re here to produce great work and they expect that same level of dedication from younger tattooers.

“I need to see like what kind of passion you have about tattooing compared to me,” Swed said. “Because if I’m going to give you a gift that’s gonna provide you with money for the rest of your life, I want to know it’s something you’re gonna stick with.”

 

Video Game Rescue

By: Colin McCann and Logan Ansteatt

The history of video games can be traced back to the mid- to late-1900s, much like “Pong,” “Pacman” and “Asteroids.” However, with new games constantly arising and evolving, preserving the classics is a mission that some take to heart.

Husband and wife Dustin and Deanna Gartenbush do everything in their power to bring these nostalgic games back to life.

Video Game Resuce, the Gartenbushes Lakeshore gaming storefront, is where people can buy, sell and trade games. Although the preservation of these games is already a main priority, it also serves as an arcade hub.

Dustin said his goal is to keep the classics alive so that future generations can experience what they might otherwise never get the chance to play.

“Just because a game is old, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing,” said Gartenbush, who has been collecting games since he was 12.

With all of the success, this reality did not happen overnight. In 2011, Gartenbush oftentimes dedicated his weekends picking up gaming gems at a local flea market, where he expanded his video game collection. Finally, with the help of crowdfunding, Video Game Rescue came into existence.

The store and arcade is also used for Board Game Night and a weekly event called Jax Smash, where gamers can enter a tournament to compete and show off their skills all while fellowshipping with other gamers.

With a seemingly endless variety of games, you can have fun for hours, and no matter what age you are, you can get in touch with your inner child at this family friendly gaming paradise.

 

Springfield: The Complicated History

By: Liz Norton and Ryan Bishop

Established in 1869, Springfield was once a neighborhood next to Downtown Jacksonville that embodied wealth, architecture, and community. However, when driving through Springfield today, seeing abandoned mansions and boarded up bungalows is a common occurrence.

What happened to this once highly esteemed neighborhood?

Charlotte Cudd, the communications director for historic property developer Meeks and Associates said, “[In the] late 40s or early 50s, all major downtowns started to see a decline and the immediate neighborhoods next to a downtown…it’s in tandem.”

It’s true. Many downtown areas across the U.S. started to see mass migrations shifts from metropolitan areas to more suburban regions. According to Modern Cities’ Evan Halloran, this abrupt and historical change in the region’s land development pattern was largely fueled by the construction of the Jacksonville expressway system and racially motivated public policies leading to the mid-20th century phenomenon referred to as “white flight.”

As residents of Downtown Jacksonville and Springfield moved away throughout the 50s and 60s, their large and affordable vacant homes became a popular idea for multiple-tenant living.

According to Cudd, Springfield became a “hotspot for rooming houses and congregate living facilities” because of the introduction of homeless shelters in the area and its close proximity to public transit and hospitals.

Rooming houses are privately owned homes that are rented out to multiple tenants for a temporary stay.

Longtime Springfield residents and neighbors often speculate about the happenings and uses of these rooming houses. Cudd, who has lived in Springfield for eight years, said private landlords or privately owned organizations would go in and buy the homes and redo them so the houses could fit many people. The rooms were then rented for very low prices. But these speculated multiple-tenant living homes were not always well-maintained. The low costs to live in one sometimes drove bad crowds to Springfield.

According to neighbors, many rooming houses were shut down because of abuse and upkeep. Some of these previously speculated rooming houses can be seen with “condemned” signs on their front doors.

Mike Todd, who owns an upholstery business in Springfield, believes his newly renovated historic home in Springfield was previously a rooming house.

“We saw evidence of dog cages in the backyard, so I had a pretty good reason to believe that was a dog fighting pit in the back of the house,” said Todd. “I saw needles, hypodermic needles in the back room. There was other evidence of people living upstairs in another area.”

Todd paid only $17,000 for his home. He worked tirelessly to restore it back to its original form. Other neighbors like Todd are doing the same. Freshly renovated houses are seen next to condemned, speculated rooming houses. Neighbors that wish to keep the inspiration of the history of Springfield alive display a sign on their homes with the letters ‘SPAR.’ this stands for Springfield Preservation and Revitalization.

These neighbors hope by restoring homes and sprucing up the neighborhood, that this will attract others to move in and do the same.

LARP’ing

By: Andy Moser and Alannah Turner

Be honest. What would you do if you were getting to know somebody (a classmate, co-worker, anyone really) and they revealed to you that they enjoy LARPing in their free time?

If you didn’t know what that meant, the kind stranger would explain that LARP stands for Live Action Role-Play. Multiple people gather together and act out a fictional narrative. It may involve dressing up in costume, attacking each other with fake weapons, or it may just be a performance without all the bells and whistles. At this point in the conversation, you now understand that this person you’re speaking with enjoys playing a game where they pretend to be someone else.

What’s your instinct? Do you tell yourself that this is a person you want to dissociate from? Does the word “nerd” come to mind? Perhaps you just politely nod your head knowing you’ll never talk to this person again. Maybe you’re even interested in what they do. You know that the person is friendly and welcoming, yet you feel a strange urge to remove or separate yourself from them.

This is likely because the broader culture, for questionable reasons, tends to frown upon or laugh at people who LARP. LARP surely has an element of uniqueness to it. It lies far outside our comfortable norms, and as we know by now, the social structure usually doesn’t treat these things kindly. Stigma is applied to abnormality, and that abnormality becomes the suspect of ridicule and ostracization.

But what happens when we’re able to recognize that and look past it?

We all have things that make us happy. Some people like shopping. Some people like movies. Some people like sports. There’s typically no difficulty in embracing any of these things because they’re mainstream enjoyments. Others get fulfillment out of LARP, and it should go without saying that there is nothing wrong with that. It is simply a different form of activity. LARP is another person’s shopping, or movies, or sports.

And if you tried it, maybe it could become your shopping, or movies, or sports. Perhaps it wouldn’t, but that still doesn’t mean that people who LARP are deserving of ostracization. It shouldn’t be the deciding factor upon which you make decisions regarding whom to be friends with and whom to not.

So when this person expresses their love and enthusiasm for LARP, resist the urge to separate. Allow them the same respect you would give others. In a society that operates on conformity, don’t be afraid of difference. Take pride in difference. That is a primary action in ending not only LARP stigma, but stigma in general.

 

904 Trendy Eats

By: Andy Moser and Alannah Turner

Trends pop up in a myriad of outlets. Music, fashion, even in our own language. They all happen because somebody somewhere had the urge to do something differently from the norm, and other people decided to jump on board. Jacksonville has a few trends of its own, particularly in the food industry.

The 904 houses a number of local food spots that, in some way, shape or form, are out of the ordinary. They begin with a small following, which steadily grows until they’re the talk of the town. Here’s a few of the River City’s culinary trendsetters we think you should check out.

Sweet by HollyFrom the owner who got her start on “Cupcake Wars” comes Sweet by Holly, a local cupcake place that makes variety its mission. Not only do the cupcakes come in different sizes, they come in dozens of flavors as well. Cotton candy, S’mores, Boston crème, banana, multiple forms of chocolate and more. And with mini cupcakes only $1 each on Mondays, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without putting a cavity in your wallet.

4624 Town Crossing Dr. #137, Saint Johns Town Center

Southern Grounds: This beach café has all the necessities—breakfast sandwiches, muffins, cookies, pastries, you name it. And if it weren’t already the millennial dream, yes, avocado toast is on the menu. Southern Grounds is the perfect place to sit down, do some homework, read a book, or just grab a good cup of coffee in a worry-free environment with a coastal vibe.

200 First St., Neptune Beach

Shack MauiYou can tell Shack Maui was started by a former college student because many of the dishes come with chips on them. The menu features simply satisfying munchies like empanadas and french fries, but also bigger bites like burgers and quesadillas drizzled with their signature orange Maui sauce. While you’re there, feel free to grab a cocktail or two (or three…we don’t judge). Open until 3 a.m. every night but Tuesday, Shack Maui answers the call when your late-night hunger hits.

13799 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach

Candy Apple CaféThis small yet stylish café is nestled into Jacksonville’s downtown area, right next to Sweet Pete’s candy shop. While the menu presents many dinner, dessert and cocktail options, brunch is definitely the primary draw. Dishes are a proud mix of southern comfort with French-influenced indulgence, complemented by an endearingly quirky, almost Alice-in-Wonderland-like interior. It’s an experience we’d willingly go down the rabbit hole for.

400 N. Hogan St., Downtown

 

Shred the Pavement

By: Ryan Bishop and Liz Norton

The world’s oldest operating skate park is unexpectedly nestled next to the busy Arlington Expressway in Jacksonville, Fla. Here at Kona Skatepark, skaters of all ages and skill levels come from near and far for the chance to skate the Guinness World Record-holding park.

In 1979, Martin Ramos’ father bought the struggling skatepark just two years after it opened. From there, the skatepark was passed on from father to son while it still continued to operate.

Over the years, the once-struggling Kona began to grow into one of the most prominent and well-known skate parks. Martin’s daughter, Cassidy Ramos, spends her days working at her family’s skate park and believes it’s a top spot on almost every skateboarder’s bucket list.

“Kona is such a destination for skateboarders,” said Ramos. “It has so much history and original concrete and stuff and so many pros have been here when they were younger. It’s just something people want to see especially when they’re skateboarders.”

Inside hangs a signed picture of one of those aforementioned pros – Tony Hawk. Soon after, Kona made its debut on one of the levels of a Tony Hawk video game.

But Kona is more than just a skatepark: it’s a safe haven for the skaters that visit. The Ramos family strives to make it a place where kids are encouraged to embrace more than just the ‘punk skater’ stereotype. They offer free admission for skaters who receive all As and Bs on their school report cards.

Jose Chacon is an amateur skater who calls Kona home and can be found shredding the bowl there.

“It’s definitely been a place where old-school skaters and as well as new generation skaters can come and basically get their skills…some can reminisce on the good ol’ days,” said Chacon.  “Some can learn new [things] on stuff you don’t really see just anywhere in the country.”

Chacon first heard of Kona a couple of years ago when they hosted an all-star competition that featured some household skate legends.

“Pros and amateurs came out and, you know, had a big competition and I first got to see all this, you know, legendary skateness.”

For the last 39 years, Kona Skatepark has inspired the skate minds of amateurs like Chacon and pros like Hawk and they hope to continue to do so for as long as the name lives on.

 

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.”

The Dog Days Aren’t over in Duval

By: Emily Kubacki and Kendra Ehrenberg

With a love for dogs on the rise, Jacksonville is accommodating the canine craze by adding more dog-friendly places where owners can maximize their time with their furry best friends. With a growing number of dog parks, dog friendly restaurants, and doggy day cares, Jacksonville is ready to embrace the puppy love and give its residents the space to do the same.

Several state-of-the-art dog parks have popped up and gained popularity in Jacksonville, like Veteran’s Dog Park and Dog Wood Park, that include all the amenities a dog needs on a day out. Both parks have huge nature trails so your dog can have a walk to remember. They also both have small dog only areas so that even the littlest guys can run freely if the playing gets too “ruff.”

While these parks do have some similarities, they are designed for different doggy desires. Dog Wood focuses more on the active pup life, with agility courses and a lake for swimming. Veteran’s Dog Park is a smaller, more casual park for both dogs and owners to relax. Veteran’s Dog Park is completely free, but if you’re leaning more towards Dog Wood, be prepared to pay anywhere from $11 to $13.50 depending on how many furry friends you’re bringing with you. Other stipulations at Dog Wood include proof of vaccination and male dogs must be neutered.

If you’re looking for a place to chow down with your puppy, restaurants like BurgerFi, Mellow Mushroom and Metro Diner welcome dogs into their outdoor seating. These locations even provide bowls of water so your pup can enjoy a drink while you do the same.

One local business in the works, Kanine Social, is looking to combine the best of both worlds: dog parks and drinking. Kanine Social is an indoor/outdoor dog park that offers craft beers and fresh coffee to dog owners while dogs are welcome to participate in the fun. They also offer a doggy day care in case your pet needs some supervision while you’re out for the day.

With all of that, the canine craze is just getting started in Jacksonville, and we’re so excited to see what other places will be welcoming our pets with open paws.

The perks of becoming a Vegan

By: Colin McCann and Logan Ansteatt

Among the young and old, a continuously growing trend in today’s society is the adoption of a vegan lifestyle.

According to Christopher Shuff, a nutritionist, dietician and weight loss specialist with Love and Fire Nutrition, this way of life is beneficial to one’s health and the environment. Therefore, veganism benefits the lives of every living thing.

“When we’re thinking about feeding a global population [the ecological aspect of it], you really need to start assessing how well we’re doing at feeding people, and livestock just really isn’t the wisest of the choices,” said Shuff.

Raising livestock for food causes enormous pollution, depletes resources and takes up much of our available land. The amount of grain used to feed livestock is enough to feed the world’s human population. According to Grace Communications Foundation, the amount of freshwater used to produce just one pound of beef is around 1,800 gallons.

However, Shuff explains that there is more to veganism than just deciding to give up animal products. Research and planning are necessary to make sure nutritional needs are fully met.

Lenel Mattek, who has been vegan for over two years, agrees with Shuff. Mattek believes people should start off eating vegetarian, slowly removing animal products from their diet one by one. Mattek also suggests prospective vegans should watch YouTube videos for nutritional advice and to gain ideas for vegan meals.

“It was two years of learning a lot of stuff about veganism, and my health, and what it does to the world before I made the change…it took a lot of knowledge to be able to know how to cook [vegan food],” said Mattek.

A common misconception, according to Shuff, is that eating vegan is more expensive. Shuff said he eats vegan often and finds vegan food more affordable than meat.

There are many reasons to become vegan. Whether it be to end the slaughter of animals for food, to save the environment, to eat healthier, or even to help end world hunger, do so with caution: there is a healthy way and not-so-healthy way to do it.