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Businessman plans dinosaur, chocolate museums for South Bend

Mark Tarner, who some call "Jurassic Mark," has spent the past 29 years building the South Bend Chocolate Company.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The man behind a South Bend chocolate business is moving ahead with plans to build a dinosaur museum in northern Indiana.

Mark Tarner, who some call "Jurassic Mark," has spent the past 29 years building the South Bend Chocolate Company. In the meantime, he's also built quite a collection of dinosaur bones in his spare time.

Tarner told WNDU-TV he has collected more than 600 bones that were found on private land he leases at a ranch in Montana. He said he typically spends about three weeks at the site each year and unearthed most of the bones himself.

“I don’t golf, don’t have a vacation home. I just love to work, and with this, it gives you purpose, you know," Tarner said.

“I think it’s really cool because you’re digging up these bones that have been covered up for at least 150 million years and this is the first time any human is seeing them," said paleontologist Stacie Skwarcan, who has been to the site the past three summers.

Credit: WNDU
Mark Tarner has collected more than 600 dinosaur bones from land he leases in Montana.

The bones are currently stored in warehouses in South Bend, waiting for Tarner's plan to pair his two passions - chocolate and dinosaurs - to come to fruition. He's planning to build museums for each on part of an 88-acre site near US 20 and the US 31 bypass in South Bend.

Tarner told WNDU his plan is for the dinosaur museum to be interactive, with children working on real bones.

"If we have fossilized turtles, I'm going to have real turtles. It's going to be half zoo," he said.

He believes the project could bring 100,000 visitors to South Bend when the museums are completed. 

"I'm betting everything that it's going to be a massive attraction for our community," Tarner said.

Credit: WNDU
Chocolate treats in production at the South Bend Chocolate Company.

Tarner is expected to break ground on the museums in April 2022 and said he should have more details about the project in about a month.