The new home for Sweet Pete’s is going to be a very old building. Marcus Lemonis, the investor planning to transform the Springfield candy store, said he has a verbal contract to buy the long-vacant Seminole Club.


He said he expects to sign the contract on Friday for the 111-year-old building on Hogan Street, across the street from City Hall and Hemming Plaza.

Lemonis is CEO of Camping World, Good Sam and AutoMatch USA, a used-car dealership that opened a location in Jacksonville a month ago. But he’s also host of CNBC’s “The Profit,” and that’s where he met Pete and Allison Behringer of Sweet Pete’s.

He has decided to invest in the company as a partner with the Behringers. He said he will buy the vacant Seminole Club and renovate it with a goal of opening by late fall.

It will include, he said, Sweet Pete’s candy kitchen, a large retail store, classrooms, party rooms and a Rose’s Cafe & Bakery, a gluten-free restaurant based in Chicago.

He said he thinks the store will be the largest candy store in the Southeast and Rose’s will be the only gluten-free restaurant in the state.

Lemonis owns Rose’s. He also owns pieces of Key West Key Lime Pie and Mr. Green Tea Ice Cream, whose products will also be sold in the store, he said.

The total cost to buy the building and renovate it will be more than $2 million, he said.

“I’m not seeking any city funds to put dollars into the facility,” Lemonis said. “If there are tax breaks that come in the district that other businesses get, we’ll be one of them. But we’re not asking for anything special. I’m not in favor of using the city’s assets.”

“The Profit” episode featuring Sweet Pete’s and conflict between the Behringers and partner Dane Baird aired April 1 and was followed by Lemonis’ announcement that he would invest in the company.

“I love candy,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be in the candy business.”

Allison Behringer, the company’s director of operations, said they have filed a lawsuit against Baird to remove him from the business.

Lemonis first said that he would move the business from Pearl Street in Springfield to a building at 331 W. Forsyth St., which developer Mike Langton had under contract and would lease to Sweet Pete’s.

But since the show aired, the store’s business has exploded. Online business alone quickly grew from $7,500 to $75,000 a month. Lemonis said he needed a bigger building.

The Seminole Club is 21,683 square feet, according to city records, while the building on Forsyth is 8,600 square feet. He also said the Forsyth building was in worse shape that he thought.

Lemonis and Langton have both traded serious disagreements about who said what when.

Wayne Wood is part of a group called Friends of Hemming Park, which is trying to revitalize Hemming Plaza. He said a thriving attraction in the Seminole Club building would be a huge step toward those efforts.

“It’s fantastic news that would play right into the trends there, the renaissance that’s happening at Hemming Park,” he said.

Wood is also author of “Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage,” a book in which the Seminole Club building is included. “It’s one of the most architecturally significant buildings downtown that isn’t occupied right now,” he said.

It was built in 1902-03 and its ornate interior is still in relatively good shape. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy gave speeches on its front porch, and most of the city’s early “movers and shakers” belonged to the private club inside, Wood said.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

Staff writer Matt Soergel contributed to this report.