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Originally published March 20, 2009 at 3:18 PM | Page modified March 20, 2009 at 3:36 PM

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Argosy Cruises takes over Tillicum Village

Tillicum Village, the popular Blake Island attraction where visitors eat salmon and watch a Native American dance performance, has a new...

Seattle Times business reporter

Tillicum Village, the popular Blake Island attraction where visitors eat salmon and watch a Native American dance performance, has a new operator for the first time in its 47-year history.

Seattle-based Argosy Cruises said today it has reached a purchase agreement to take over Tillicum Village from the founding Hewitt family.

Kevin Clark, Argosy's president and chief executive, suggested visitors might not notice a difference when tours begin next month for the 2009 season, noting that Argosy plans to "maintain the character, feel and experience" of Tillicum Village. "We will maintain the facility and upgrade it and keep it alive and well," Clark said.

The late restauranteur Bill Hewitt founded Tillicum Village in 1962, creating a longhouse-style performance area, restaurant and gift shop. His son, Mark Hewitt, continued the family's stewardship after Bill's retirement in 1990 and will remain as a consultant for the next year. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The complex — which was deeded to the state and leased back to the Hewitt family — covers about 5 acres of the 475-acre Blake Island State Park in Puget Sound. To take control, Argosy also recently negotiated a 30-year lease with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, Clark said.

He noted that Argosy has provided transportation from the Seattle waterfront to Tillicum Village for all 47 years and expects a "seamless" transition. "We've been working cooperatively together since the early '60s. ... It was kind of a perfect fit," he said.

Founded in 1949 as the Spring Street Water Taxi, Argosy operates 10 vessels in the Puget Sound region, generating more than $12 million in annual sales. The privately owned company employs 75 people year-round and an additional 225 people during the summer tourist season.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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