(South Bend, IN) - The longtime dream of an area businessman is finally coming to fruition.
Mark Tarner’s South Bend Chocolate Company will soon be the anchor for a multi-million-dollar tourist attraction on the northwest side of South Bend.
Construction has begun on a 90-acre parcel near the intersection of U.S. 20 and U.S. 31. In addition to a new and improved chocolate facility, Tarner is excited to unveil an 18-thousand-square-foot dinosaur museum.
Tarner has been collecting fossils for about twenty years. He is currently working a dig site in Montana, where he has found over 800 bones. His collection features a duck-billed dinosaur with skin still on it and a long-neck sauropod. Both will be displayed at the Indiana Dinosaur Museum, but not in the traditional format. “I kind of want to reinvent the dinosaur museum experience,” said Tarner, “make it a little more fun and hands-on.”
But Tarner’s famous chocolate and exciting dino experience may take a back seat to nature. An orchard, a grape vineyard, nature trails, and restored pastures complete with roaming buffalo will accent the property development. “It’s a very unique site,” Tarner said. “The Continental Divide goes through there. We’re going to have tours and hiking trails.” Tarner says he’s starting a new company called South Bend Farms, which will feature products grown and produced there. “It’s green, it’s new, it’s innovative, it’s for multiple generations,” he said. “It’s a one-of-a-kind, all-season attraction.”
Tarner is also renovating a corrugated metal building which he will repurpose as a restaurant called South Bend Public House.
A bulk of the construction Tarner says should be done next December. He says current South Bend Chocolate Company locations will remain in operation.