“I fell in love with cork when I traveled to Portugal with my partner Julie Araujo to visit her family – basically, I flipped out at the beauty and utility of this ancient natural product,” says Amanda Dailey. “I saw a cork belt, a cork hat, and I had an idea that I put in motion. I had a collar for my dog made of cork fabric, and it grew from there.” Dailey then embarked on a journey that included a great deal of research about the long history of cork and how it is used and harvested and processed. The research culminated in her retail and online business, Queork, which markets an array of stunning cork apparel and accessories.

“The story of cork is a fascinating one,” says Dailey. “Cork comes from the bark of an oak tree, related to the very oaks we see here along the Gulf Coast every day. But the cork oak grows only in the Mediterranean region, almost all of it in Portugal. Cork has been used to make bottle stoppers forever – wine corks, primarily. Cork fabric has been produced for the last hundred years or so, and has been used in Portugal for shoes, belts, bags and such for a long time.”

Dailey provides a wealth of information about cork and its properties. “The fact that the cork tree not only survives the harvesting process, but thrives on it, is unique indeed. The bark is removed from the tree, and the three regenerates stronger bark. Harvesting is not only good for the tree, it is essential in order to make the cork stronger and more resilient,” she says. “Not only does the tree survive, but the cork itself serves as an air purifier as it grows, and this has become essential to the environment in which the trees exist.”

The market for natural cork crashed, at least temporarily, with the advent of the synthetic cork for wine stoppers. “The synthetic stoppers cost significantly less than natural cork,” explains Dailey, “but year of experience have proven that fine wines, particularly the reds, need to breathe to age well. Synthetics are so efficient that there is no transfer of air – no room to breathe, so to speak – and the wine quality can suffer dramatically.”

New markets for natural cork are coming to light all the time, and Amanda Dailey and Julie Aranjo are tapping into them for their growing retail chain, their online business, and more recently, their own manufacturing venture. “We were hard pressed to find enough quality cork products to stock our stores, and one thing led to another, and we now have a manufacturing facility in New Orleans. We are working with local not-for-profits for employee training, and creating some good jobs in the community.”

Dailey has plans to continue to grow the retail business, both in boutiques and online. “We have five stores right now – two in New Orleans, one in Santa Fe NM, and two along the Gulf Coast. We have just opened a new store in The Hub at Watersound, and we have one in Grayton Beach as well. The merchandise is constantly changing, and the stores are fun, and visitors are amazed at all the things that cork can become.”

www. queork.com

838 Chartres
New Orleans LA 70116

3005 Magazine Street
New Orleans LA 70115

29 Uptown Grayton Circle
Santa Rose Beach FL 32459

The Hub
15 Hub Lane
Watersound, FL 32413

203 West Water Street
Santa FE NM 87501

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