Meanwhile, Cela Burge and her associates were meeting and learning from another group of people who were integral to the project – the artisans. The jury process to select products sold at Tamarack, has been in place since th beginning to insure quality and authenticity of WV-made items.
Artisans were also involved in the construction of Tamarack. West Virginia artisans created structural elements – and were paid by contract – a year before visitors ever touched Tamarack’s handcrafted door pulls.
From the first, Tamarack – both the building and the concept of a centralized marketing system – aroused strong reactions. Governor Caperton consistently voiced high hopes for Tamarack. And in October 1994, The Crafts Report devoted its cover feature to “West Virginia’s Bold Experiment.” A few months later, the national publication honored the Parkways Authority with its Crafts Consciousness Award.
Building a Dream
At the official groundbreaking on August 8, 1994, visitors sampled food from The Greenbrier, including the fried green tomatoes that have become a signature of Tamarack.
Behind the scenes, Tamarack’s staff and jurors continued their work. Artisans who passed the jurying process then received an initial order. For some, it was the largest order they had ever received. By June 1995, Tamarack had placed orders with more than 900 artisans. By the end of 1996, more than 1,300 West Virginia artisans were selling their wares at Tamarack, over 450,000 people had visited, and sales had topped $3.3 million. In December, the one-millionth visitor walked through the doors.
Tamarack’s popularity as a gathering place and the more than fruitful partnership with The Greenbrier sparked the idea of adding a conference center. The grand opening for the Tamarack Conference Center was held on June 20, 2003.
Tamarack has continued to grow. Over 2,800 artisans from all fifty-five counties have become part of the Tamarack family. Gross revenues have topped $78 million and purchases for goods and services have exceeded $65 million. And as of June 30, 2007, Tamarack had enjoyed almost 5.2 million visitors. (On May 21, 2012 Tamarack welcomed its 7 millionth guest.)
This history was created from excerpts of Tamarack at Ten by Colleen Anderson.