University of Arizona freshman Jessica Johnson told her two friends that walking into Campus Candy, the newest addition to Main Gate Square, just to "look around" was actually a really bad idea.

She told them it wouldn't be so easy. That it'd be better just to keep walking.

Don't worry, they told her, we're not going to buy anything.

But when Tasha Geroulis and Carolyn Gohl stepped onto the candy emporium's lime-green floor, Johnson in tow, their eyes got a little wider and their jaws dropped a bit. After maybe a moment of token resistance, they were snatching up a pair of plastic candy bags and skittering from bin to bin, debating which tooth-rotting sweets they should scoop up.

"I told you guys!" Johnson shouted.

Turns out even big kids like candy, and that's the idea behind Campus Candy, 910 E. University Blvd., which opened last week. The store is the third location nationwide for the growing chain of campus-area sweet shops. Locations near Penn State and the University of Maryland will open by the end of March.

Owner Mark Tarnofksy, a New York native, said he got the idea for a campus-area candy store after helping his daughter move into the dorms at Indiana University. After a humid day running back and forth between campus and stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Tarnofsky got a hankering for a candy bar.

"If I didn't get out to get a candy bar, I was gonna go crazy," he said.

Sure, Tarnofsky was able to pick one up easily enough at a drugstore, but for whatever reason, that rubbed him the wrong way.

Tarnofsky figured that if there are dozens of places near any college campus to pick up a sub sandwich or a pizza, why couldn't there be a candy store, too?

Tarnofksy's move-in day brainstorm resulted in the first Campus Candy, which opened in Bloomington, Ind., last March. A location near the University of Wisconsin opened later that year.

The stores offer a modern twist on the classic candy store, with a sleek elliptical interior, plenty of flat-screen TVs and lots of music going and cafe-style seating.

And then there's the candy. About 500 varieties line the walls in clear plastic bins and dispensing tubes - gummies, licorices, sour candies, specialty peanut-butter cups with fresh peanut butter or Reese's, baseball-size jawbreakers and more. There are also sugar-free options as well as a good selection of nuts and trail mixes toward the front of the store.

Pricing is simple, $2.89 per quarter pound of anything in the store, mix and match. The store also offers frozen yogurt, with flavors rotating daily.

Tarnofsky jokes that the fro-yo is low calorie, but the entire store is your topping bar.

"Need I say more," he said.

Tarnofsky said he's hoping the shop isn't just a hit with the college scene, but also sports fans and theater goers attending events at the university.

Tim Workman, a UA graduate who works at a nearby store, said Campus Candy has caused quite a bit of buzz in the area. He walked over to try it out after a friend brought a bag of candy into work.

"It was pretty surprising. They've got a bit of everything," he said, pointing to a bag of candy Legos blocks.

Geroulis, a UA freshman, marveled at the audacity of opening a candy store near the university. She thought health food was all the rage.

"It's fascinating," she said. "We totally didn't expect something like this."

As for which candy they would walk out with, the trio was still undecided.

"We're still debating," said Gohl.

As for Johnson, she said she's still going to do her best to steer clear, if she can help it.

"I'm on this new diet," she said.

Contact reporter Alex Dalenberg at or 808-8429.