For candy store owner, Tucson memories go way back

Native Tucsonan Patricia Zarin, owner of Classy Sweets, owes both her entrepreneurial spirit and her strong Jewish identity to her parents, Bill and Roselyn Dumes.

“I was bat mitzvahed at Anshei Israel,” she says, noting that this was in “the old shul” on Sixth Street, where she and her father attended services every Saturday morning and most Friday nights.

“My parents made sure I went to Hebrew school twice a week,” she says, and she continued to study Hebrew throughout high school and at the University of Arizona, where she majored in criminal justice. Zarin also volunteered for years in the Anshei Israel office, “back in the day of Cantor Falkow and purple mimeographs.”

Her father, who came to Tucson from Indiana in 1939, started the local branch of the Arthritis Foundation and founded the Tucson Bench Company, an early innovator in bus bench advertising. Later he became a talent agent, bringing acts such as Roy Rogers, Johnny Cash and Charlie Pride to the Tucson Gardens, “way before the Tucson Convention Center was built,” she says. While her brother Arthur and father ran the bar at the Gardens, she and her mother ran the concession stand, giving Zarin her first taste of serving customers sweet treats with a smile.

Over the years her father opened several other businesses, including a pizza parlor and a restaurant. Zarin had given up working as a court reporter to help him run his party supply business when, in 1984, a drunk driver crashed into their building “after soaring over a 30-foot palm tree at Bob’s Big Boy at Speedway and Swan,” she recalls. With the building condemned as a result of the damage, Zarin convinced her father to reopen in a new location.

Today, she operates Classy Sweets at 6761E. Tanque Verde Road, where the main focus is on gourmet candies, including gluten free, sugar free, vegan and kosher varieties. In a nod to her father, she continues to sell party supplies and U.S. and state flags, and installs residential and commercial flag poles. To further round things out, she also serves as a notary.

Zarin and her husband, Ira, have four children. She notes that her sons, Michael and Benjamin, became b’nai mitzvah “at the new Anshei Israel.” Her twin girls, Madyssen and Rachael, who were born when Zarin was 42, attended Anshei Israel and Tucson Hebrew Academy.

“Madyssen and Rachael have been to Israel two times before age 18,” she says, as well as participating in the March of the Living trip to Poland and Israel last year. The girls are involved in the United Synagogue Youth club. Madyssen, who is the USY chapter president, plans to serve in the Israel Defense Forces after graduation from University High School and then go to college in Israel.

“I truly believe she will be the next Golda Meir,” says Zarin.