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Tamarack prepared for holidays with thousands of W.Va.-made items

BECKLEY, W.Va.  — Need a statue of a coal miner made from coal? Need a handmade broom? A battery-powered drill made of wood?

How about a metal statue of deer, the kind that marks the entrance to Tamarack? Or the actual deer statues that stand at the entrance of Tamarack?

Those West Virginia-made items and more are available at Tamarack, or as the highway signs and promotional materials call it, “Tamarack The Best of West Virginia.”

Thousands of items made by 1,300 West Virginia artisans and companies are available for sale this shopping season.

“What’s unique about Tamarack is that we have a lot of more modern art, but West Virginia culture and history is really important to makers in our state, and they want to stay in this traditional craft form,” said Norma Acord, marketing director.

“People like to come here to find things like brooms, chimney sweeps, hand-carved bowls (and) the hand-carved serving utensils because it speaks to that mountain heritage. Those are really great gifts to give.”

On Monday, Larry and Mary Kay Inguagiato of Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo, browsed the glassware on display. The former West Virginians, who moved to South Charleston in 1970 and out of state in 1980, said it was their second visit in recent days. They stopped at Tamarack once on a trip south and had stopped again on the return trip north.

“I bought some books and cookbooks and some of the toys that were made by an artist in South Charleston for our grandsons,” Mary Kay Inguatiato said.

Larry Inguatiato added, “I don’t see a lot of this homemade quality stuff in a lot of places.”

Hand-crafted quality is what Tamarack markets, and the Christmas season is an important time of year, Acord said.

“It gets really busy. A lot of people come in to shop, especially around the holidays,” she said.

“We have breakfast with Santa; we have Christmas concerts; we have caroling; we have cookie decorating classes — things like that. Christmas is one of our favorite times of the year. We always try to amp it up and do a lot of stuff.

“The gourmet section is huge. We do a lot of sales out of the gourmet section. People are buying jams and jellies and wines and craft beer — things like that.

“They may have lived in West Virginia or they are from West Virginia and are going to visit someone outside the state and they want to take a little piece of West Virginia with them.

“And we sell a lot of glass. That’s our other big seller.”

One artisan who is new to Tamarack this year is Matt Wilkinson of Boone County. A section near the main entrance is devoted to his hand-carved, fully functional tools made of wood.

“We’re really excited to have him here,” Acord said.

With few exceptions, all moving parts are made of wood, including screws and bolts, Acord said. The power drill has a wooden case, but it contains a battery and an electric motor so it is fully functional. Likewise, the chain saw works, she said.

Items at Tamarack can range in price from the relatively inexpensive, such as the $40 coal miner statue and the $40 handmade broom to some that go for four figures, such as Wilkinson’s drill.

New artisans are added to Tamarack’s supply list frequently, Acord said.

“We do six juried sessions a year. We’re bringing in new artists six times throughout the year, and we never get to the point that we don’t have enough,” she said.

Tamarack opened in 1996 and is about to reach a milestone, Acord said.

“We’re expecting to reach our nine millionth guest sometime in December. We don’t know exactly when. They get a $500 gift certificate for shopping with us for our thank you for coming in the door at the right time,” she said.

That person could be a West Virginian, or it could be a visitor.

“The trends are the people are traveling more into our state. We hope they come by and see what Tamarack is.”

Tamarack is open daily from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. It is closed on Christmas Day.

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