The Sweetest Destination
With Friends of Hemming and all the events slated to go into the Hemming Park space, the area around Hemming Park is turning into quite a hotspot. Adding to the heat is the addition of the Sweet Pete building, which was formerly known as the Seminole Club. Sweet Pete’s is backed by Marcus Lemonis of The Profit on CNBC. Lemonis bought the building in July of this year and provided the cash for the more than $3 million in renovations. Candy confectioner Sweet Pete’s will share the building with The Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails.
“Sweet Pete’s and The Candy Apple are better together because the whole is greater than the individual parts,” says Allison Behringer, Sweet Pete’s director of operations. Behringer believes the gestalt of Sweet Pete’s “delightful candy shop and production facility” and Candy Apple’s “top notch dining and catering experience” combine to create something special.
“Sweet Pete’s has always been known as a destination for kids’ events, but this building allows us to do so much more. Ultimately, we’re an event destination for both kids and grown-ups,” says Jennifer Earnest, one of the partners of the Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails. Earnest says that the collaborative efforts of Sweet Pete’s and The Candy Apple will make the building a draw for many different groups and walks of life: “There’s definitely a strong family-friendly element, but it’s also a great place to do corporate events, team-building, girls’ nights out, rehearsal dinners and everything in between.” On the third floor there’s space for special events, with a capacity of 180 for a sit-down affair, and more for a stand-up cocktail party. Sweet Pete’s can also schedule candy-making classes specific to your needs, depending on their schedule and what’s available.
Historically, the building is a gem. The three-story Seminole Club was one of the last of the old-fashioned men’s clubs, hanging on until the 1990s, with its heyday in the early 1900s. The membership roster, which at one point had as many as 1,000 names, featured Jacksonville’s movers and shakers. The club hosted dignitaries over the years and had some political cachet, having served both Democrats and Republicans. John F. Kennedy downed a coffee there after campaigning at Hemming and Teddy Roosevelt put the porch to good use by giving a speech from it during his presidential campaign circuit. The decline of the club was slow, and membership finally opened up to the ladies in the late 1980s, over 100 years after it was first founded. Since the 1990s, the building has been closed.
Prior to renovating, the new owners consulted with a historic preservation specialist. Allison Behringer, Sweet Pete’s director of operations, says they value the historic nature: “Peter and I love historic neighborhoods. The Seminole Club is a beautiful building with a lot of character. We started Sweet Pete’s in a refurbished Victorian home. It is wonderful to have the ability to restore a historic building.”
The three-story club still has the great bones it was built with, despite needing extensive work. It’s been quite a project. The foyer has been restored to be much the same as it was when it first opened in 1903, with beautiful wood details. They’ve also kept the fireplace original to the building, the staircase form and the sitting window between the second and third floor. Some elements which were no longer a part of the building have been restored, such as a wrap-around porch, which had been broken up into two parts sometime during its history. “The building gives back to us by providing such a beautiful backdrop for dining, field trips, parties and all types of sweet events!” says Behringer.
Sweet Pete’s has been doing candy demos and classes for quite some time, something that they are going to continue in their new digs. The building features a glass-walled production area, so that those on tours can often see the candy-making in action. With a group of ten or more, you can book one of their classes, which range from toddler-oriented fare to the more sophisticated truffle class. See their list of available classes at sweetpetescandy.com.
Earnest says that The Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails space will be sophisticated with a touch of whimsy. Decor and architecture will pay homage to what the building was, while spotlighting the inspired joy that’s gone into making it new again. Food at the cafe will be French-influenced, with a heavy Southern American spin. It’ll be a place for folks to relax, eat and imbibe, as they also have a full bar with expert cocktail crafters. Reservations are accepted and strongly encouraged for parties of six or more. Go their website at thecandyapplecafe.com for their menu and more info. You can also find them on Facebook.
To celebrate their opening and foster a sense of community, Sweet Pete’s and The Candy Apple Cafe will be holding Porch Parties at 5-7pm every Wednesday in December, except for Christmas Eve. “We really want to welcome everyone with the porch parties,” says Earnest. Each party will be themed.
To celebrate the restaurant’s opening, The Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails will host three Porch Parties featuring happy hour specials, interactive candy experiences, venue and candy factory tours, and live music.
12/3: One Spark & the launch of Sweet Pete’s One Spark chocolate bar, Live music by Dalton Stanley Band.
12/10: Springfield theme to celebrate Sweet Pete’s original home in Historic Springfield, live music by Mama Blue, VIP lounge for Springfield residents.
12/17: Downtown business theme.
The Candy Apple Cafe has four distinct event spaces for private parties:
–The Dessert Bar 2nd Floor. Can accommodate up to 50 people for nighttime events.
–Candy Cane Lane 2nd Floor. Can accommodate up to 60 people.
–Licorice Lane 3rd Floor. Can accommodate small parties of up to 20 people.
–The Candy Palace 3rd Floor. Can accommodate up to 200 people.
The entire building can be rented after 6pm on weekend evenings to accommodate groups of 300 or more.
Parking Valet service will be available between 11am-2pm for a $3 fee. Parking is also available at numerous street meter spaces around Downtown; most meters surrounding the restaurant accept credit cards for payment. All metered street spots are free on weekends and after 6pm on weekdays. Parking is also available at the City of Jacksonville’s Ed Ball Building garage at 214 N. Hogan Street, near the intersection of Monroe and Julia Streets, and at the Duval Street garage at 303 W. Duval Street.