By Roger Bull The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville.
Sweet Pete's has made its first move toward becoming a national brand. The Jacksonville candy store has purchased a shop in suburban Chicago and is turning it into a Sweet Pete's.
Allison Behringer, who founded Sweet Pete's with her husband Pete, was in Lake Forest, Ill., Friday, already working on the change.
"We locked the doors this morning, we've taken the sign down and we're putting our graphics in the window," she said.
She said it will probably be about 45 days before it reopens as Sweet Pete's. She said more expansion is planned.
"Marcus has always wanted to grow this into a national brand," she said.
That would be Marcus Lemonis, who has been the catalyst for the fast changes the business has been through since the Behringers went on Lemonis' CNBC's reality show "The Profit" in early 2014. The entrepreneur, who is CEO of Camping World among other things, took a liking to their business and bought in.
Since then, they've moved from Springfield into the former Seminole Club downtown, a move that Lemonis estimated at about $2 million. Three months ago, Lemonis signed agreements to buy two more buildings on Hogan Street to handle the need for more space, though that sale has not yet closed.
"The retail business has been insane," Behringer said. "We must see over 1,000 people every Saturday."
It was Lemonis who first spotted the Jolly Good Fellows store in Lake Forest's Market Square, which calls itself the first planned shopping center in the country. It's only about 15 minutes from Lemonis' office, Behringer said.
The store is primarily a bakery with ice cream and some merchandise.
But Tim Turpin, a candy maker with Sweet Pete's for about a year, is moving to Lake Forest to start making candy there. The basement will be renovated to make room for two party rooms, which have been a big part of Sweet Pete's business downtown.
The fact that the party space is always booked is one reason Lemonis said he went looking for more space in downtown Jacksonville.
Operating two businesses more than 800 miles apart will be a big change for the Behringers, but Allison Behringer said she will probably be flying back and forth more often that her husband.
"I'm doing inventory right now," she said. "He's in the back making candy."