Spanish Sugar mill
PLACE WITH A PAST — With the Old Spanish Sugar Mill in the background, water from the spring rushes over the spillway at DeLeon Springs State Park. PHOTO COURTESY AMY MUNIZZI

UPDATED STORY AUG. 9:

The longtime operator of the Old Spanish Sugar Mill in DeLeon Springs State Park, Schwarze Enterprises, was outbid by a competitor for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection agreement to provide services to visitors at the state park.

Including operation of the beloved Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant, the contract covers kayak and paddleboard rentals, a gift shop, and operation of the snack bar outside the restaurant.

The Beacon confirmed Aug. 8 that the winning bid was made by Guest Services Inc. Guest Services is also the concessionnaire providing visitor services at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City and Hontoon Island in DeLand.

“After 61 years, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill will be closing its screen doors,” the current Sugar Mill operators told The Beacon via email, and posted on social media.

Under the new agreement, the new owners, Guest Services Inc., are required to provide the same “unique dining experience of the building.”

In a response to a record request from The Beacon asking for a copy of the new agreement, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection wrote that the agreement is still in development, but provided a statement.

“To be clear, Guest Services, Inc. will continue all the services and experiences that have made the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House such a treasured part of a visit to De Leon Springs State Park,” Florida Department of Environmental Protection Press Secretary Alexandra Kuchta wrote. “The restaurant’s famous cook-your-own pancakes will still be available in the authentic, sugar mill building overlooking one of Florida’s most beautiful natural settings.”

The restaurant will close on Sept. 12 for renovations to the roof. Construction is scheduled to be completed on Oct. 1, and the building will reopen under the new operator, Kuchta said.

For safety reasons, the restaurant will remain closed to the public during renovations, but all other portions of the park will remain open, she said.

According to Kuchta, the DEP received five proposals to offer guest services at DeLeon Springs. Guest Services Inc. was ranked first by “independent evaluators,” while Schwarze Enterprises was ranked fourth.

“We sincerely thank you for making us your ‘go-to’ for when you’ve got company or a chocolate-chip-pancake craving. Thank you again for sharing memories with us. The Sugar Mill was without a doubt the coolest breakfast restaurant in America,” the restaurant’s current operators posted on social media.

The contract with Schwarze Entreprises began in 1961 and was renewed in five-year intervals.

Information on the state’s process for choosing a vendor is found by clicking HERE.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED AUG. 8:

The longtime operator of the Old Spanish Sugar Mill in DeLeon Springs State Park, Schwarze Enterprises, was outbid by a competitor for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection agreement to provide visitors services — including kayak rentals, a gift shop, and operation of the beloved Old Spanish Sugar Mill — The Beacon confirmed Aug. 8. 

The winning bid was made by Guest Services Inc. 

In a release, the current owners said, “After 61 years, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill will be closing its screen doors.”

Under the new agreement, the new owners, Guest Services Inc., are required to provide the same “unique dining experience of the building.” 

Schwarze Enterprises will stop running the restaurant on Sept. 12. 

“We sincerely thank you for making us your ‘go-to’ for when you’ve got company or a chocolate chip pancake craving.  Thank you again for sharing memories with us. The Sugar Mill was without a doubt the coolest breakfast restaurant in America,” the company said in a statement. 

The contract with Schwarze Entreprises began in 1961 and was renewed in 5-year intervals.

Information on the process is found by clicking HERE

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

24 COMMENTS

  1. The family that has provided pancakes for 61 years is outbid by a corporation. No more Sugar Mill for our family!

    • Why don’t you wait to see what happens. Guest Services is a 100-year old company that works in partnership with the National Park Service and already provides all the concessions for Everglades National Park. It’s actually a perfect fit to preserve and revitalize the Sugar Mill.

      • All parks are not alike. Corporate service does not generally provide the same personal service that a 61 year family-owned business can. The Sugar Mill does not require “revitalization.” People loved it as it was.

  2. This is terrible! I have been bringing visitors and family here for years. There are very few places that reflect the “original Florida” not the current one. That family has done a wonderful job for years and they were repaid by being out bid by a corperation. Great job state of FL it sucks.

    • DK who are you and how about you identify whether you work for the state, Guest services, or any other entity associated with this? Perhaps before you start calling folks names for expressing concern about a contract being awarded to a national park operator away from a mom and pop operator, you might seek first to understand the concern? Again, why so defensive of this? Your involvement if any?

    • I agree someone sounds like an undercover typer, not a good way to get people on your side by calling people Karens. How long have you lived in Florida a year? Probably one of those New Yorkers or Californians who don’t understand a single thing about living in Florida. Yet alone Volusia County, How about you leave the ACTUAL LOCALS to feel how they feel. I grew up going to that pancake house with family members that are now dead, so sorry people like us worry it will change and corporatize so bad I won’t be able to pass down the tradition to my children. Have some respect.

  3. If they close the sugarmill, I will not be going to this state park again. This is unfair to the owner of the restaurant. The ombance of this restaurant is what makes it a success also.

      • I think the author meant ambience, or atmosphere. I wonder whether DK is a representative of Guest Services. That company could go a long way towards reassuring the OSM’s patrons by indicating whether – or not – they intend to continue operating the Old Sugar Mill’s unique pancake business. It’s a special offering and unique to the park.

  4. I am so angry. How can the state just walk over small successful Floridian business owners without a qualm. The Old Sugar Mill has successful and popular for 61 years but our elected officials decide to give it to a corporation who want in on the money. I have been to the Everglades national park recently. I saw nothing but vending machines for food certainly not a unique restaurant. Is there anyone in Tallahassee that Listens to “we the people” instead of “we the corporations”?

      • The secretary of DEP and the Park Service Director are appointed, not elected. The current DEP secretary and FPS director were both in place long before DeSantis was elected.
        Nice try, though.

  5. This has been a part of history for 61 years. People came to the Springs for this experience. I think if it happens they will see a drastic loss of income, people will not come to the Springs as much. I know that is why I go. The historic museum and the Mill are the main reasons for going. Yes growing up we did have family picnics but the Mill has always been a part of going. I think this is a big mistake. I hope the petition helps and maybe everyone contacting Tallahassee.

  6. All those complaining about state elected officials doing this can remember there is a primary this month and midterms this year and another election in 2024. You don’t like what the current administration of elected folks are doing, vote them out.

  7. MIght want to add that the State tried to shut it down when it bought it from the private owner, Tulfrin (not sure spelling, he lived in the house and swam every day). Back in the 80’s? not sure. Wonderful when private. Had a high dive. State comes in and suddenly…Petroleum Product Roads n Trails, Signs everywhere, Restrictions, Generic, ATV’s so the “Rangers” can ride and not have to walk. The Spirit dies when the State Colonializes the happy grounds of the Indigenous People. That all of us now.

  8. Anyone remember being young and being chased back onto to walk way in Blue Springs. Ranger, “Hey kids! get back on the trail! You disturb the wildlife!” And then!?!?? They paved a path for themselves with TAR. lol. Such a joke. We are Natives living under a Colonialist Administration. We need a Reservation so we can live as we once did.

  9. This a quote from the above Beacon article… perhaps some of you “missed” this…
    “To be clear, Guest Services, Inc. will continue all the services and experiences that have made the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House such a treasured part of a visit to De Leon Springs State Park,” Florida Department of Environmental Protection Press Secretary Alexandra Kuchta wrote. “The restaurant’s famous cook-your-own pancakes will still be available in the authentic, sugar mill building overlooking one of Florida’s most beautiful natural settings.”

  10. Same family has run it since 1961, wow. That’s 61 years of great service.

    Funny how longtime contracts and/or agreements end abruptly under the DeSantis regime. Perhaps Schwarze Enterprises tweeted something Ron didn’t like or Guest Services is just too slick to compete with when dealing with politicians.

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