Most people associate Tarner with chocolate.
Who knew the founder and owner of the South Bend Chocolate Company spends his vacation time roaming ranches in the American West excavating dinosaur and other bones?
Everyone will now.
Several days ago, Tarner, an amateur paleontologist, debuted the Dino Store, a tiny storefront tucked behind his downtown chocolate cafe on South Michigan Street.
It contains bones, fossils and rocks the Tarner family has found while vacationing in South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska, as well as some items Tarner has purchased over the years and some commercially packaged bones and fossils.
"Welcome to our nerdy dinosaur world," he says. "We want to find a whole dinosaur, but we come across all this in the process."
The Dino Store feels like a page out of a museum shop or Dinosphere at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.
In fact, Tarner says, he has trailed behind real paleontologists, picking up their unwanted bone fragments. He says the store contains many of the things he doesn't have a use for that others could find interesting.
The Dino Store contains unique mammal jaws that belonged to squirrels and camels more than 21 million years ago. Pieces of petrified wood are sold by the pound. Old turtle shells and a Hadrosaur femur can be viewed in a display case.
The store is much more than Tarner, the candy man. It more accurately represents his entire family. Tarner, his wife, Julie, and their four children met at the store Thursday to talk about their hobby and joint venture.
Emily, 18, and Anna, 10, are the most vivid in their descriptions of family vacations spent on microsites -- small areas that are loaded with ancient teeth, turtle shells and other findings.
While they have never visited Disneyland, no one is complaining.
"If Dad puts me on a microsite for a day with some water, I'm content," says 18-year-old Emily, whose fascination with rocks started the family excavations in the early '90s.
"That's when I caught the bug," Tarner admits.
His vocabulary is impressive to the nonpaleontologist. His knowledge about dinosaurs seems as extensive as his understanding of confections.
Not long after the family started collecting bones and fossils, Tarner and his kids incorporated a company called PaleoPartners.
Items in the store range from petrified wood that starts at $1.49 per pound, to mammal jaws that run from $30 to $100, all the way up to an Oviraptor egg (Tarner bought this) from the late Cretaceous period, priced at $2,000.
The hottest seller so far, however, has been the $3 mystery bags. Anna, 10, has already had to restock them.