Eddie Tadlock, Story Collector


BY :: HEIDI STUKKIE
PHOTOGRAPHY :: TIM MOTLEY

He sleeps very little, socializes a lot and owns two orchids he calls pets.

Meet Eddie Tadlock––a tireless volunteer and community advocate whose mission is “to collect stories from people of all walks of life.”

Tadlock is the Assistant General Manager for SMG’s DeVos Place and DeVos Performance Hall. As part of the job, he’s often asked to recommend restaurants, nightclubs, stores and cultural activities to visiting customers. Tadlock does not take this responsibility lightly and personally tries to experience all that Grand Rapids has to offer.

His daily activities exhaust even the most energetic among us and few are able to keep up with his busy lifestyle––perhaps one of the reasons why this handsome and charming 49-year-old is still single. On the day of our interview, Tadlock had visited seven different restaurants and clubs the night before and that wasn’t even an unusual night.

A self-proclaimed “culture vulture,” he enjoys live music, theatre, opera, ballet, art shows and almost any other cultural event.

Tadlock doesn’t own a television and hasn’t since 1990, but there is no shortage of art or books in his Heritage Hill home.

“I’m a book collecting nut,” he says.

His taste in art is eclectic and he owns everything from sculptures and paintings to ceremonial masks from Nigeria and other countries. Tadlock says he likes to collect art from new, emerging artists so he can later say, “I knew them when…”

He loves to cook and can often be found at the Fulton Street Farmers Market early in the morning picking out fresh produce. A true locavore, Tadlock believes in eating what’s in season and often posts photos of his culinary creations on Facebook for friends to salivate over.

Traveling around the world taught him how to cook and also inspired a passion for experiencing different cultures and collecting stories. He has a diverse group of friends throughout the globe who he visits as much as he can, but he also appreciates Michigan and often travels locally. Tadlock says he likes to be a tourist wherever he lives and in addition to enjoying Grand Rapids, makes frequent trips to Detroit, the lakeshore and northern Michigan.

This former Marine averages 3.5 hours of sleep a night, or “four or five if I stretch it.”

Other than biking, snow shoeing and walking almost everywhere from his downtown home, Tadlock doesn’t exercise and believes “running is for crazy people.”

As for his “pets”––the orchids––he doesn’t know their formal names, but says they’re both around 12 years old. Tadlock adds that he was “heartbroken” when he had to leave 14 other orchids behind fours years ago when he moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids. The guy who bought his house kept two and the rest were given to friends.

On top of Tadlock’s busy work and social life, he still finds time to volunteer and serves on the boards of many organizations he values. Currently, he’s involved with the American Red Cross (both as a board member and a 15-year volunteer first aid instructor), Bl2endCommunity Sustainability PartnershipExperience Grand RapidsGrand Rapids Art MuseumGrand Rapids Community FoundationGrand Rapids Downtown AllianceGrand Rapids Downtown Development AuthorityGrand Rapids SymphonyInternational Association of Venue ManagersTEDxGrandRapids and United Way.

(Are you exhausted yet? Try interviewing him.)

Tadlock grew up as a “military brat.” His father served in the U.S. Air Force and the family moved every few years. Middle class and without a lot of money, volunteering played an important role in their lives and became the catalyst for Tadlock’s present volunteer commitments.

The game of soccer and good grades eventually awarded Tadlock scholarships to attend Brevard College in North Carolina, where he earned an associate degree in English, and later Boston University for a bachelor of science in communications.

While in college, Tadlock joined the Marines and attended the Officer Candidate School at U.S.M.C. in Quantico, Virginia. He spent two years in active duty and four in the reserves. When asked what he did while an active-duty Marine, Tadlock replied, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

I didn’t press the issue.

After graduating from Boston University, Tadlock spent a year traveling the country and eventually landed in Los Angeles where he “goofed off for a while” with friends. The experience was worth it because he can now boast that he has visited every state in the U.S. at least once.

Tadlock worked as the Director of Event Services at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center for more than 13 years and later as the General Manager at the Lynnwood Convention Center in Seattle for four years before relocating to Grand Rapids in April 2008.

“I go to a lot of meetings,” Tadlock says of his current position as Assistant General Manager at DeVos Place.

The Directors of Sales & Marketing and Event Services report to him and he also does planning, sales and business development. Often, he travels to other places to persuade people to host their events at DeVos Place.

Tadlock recently brought a group from the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) to Grand Rapids and planned a conference for around 200 people. He has been a member of this 80-year-old international organization for 15 years and serves on the board. When he was new to the industry, he was fortunate to have mentors who helped him get started. Remembering that, Tadlock started a mentoring program for new IAVM members to match them with a veteran member.

The best part about his job at DeVos Place?

“I get to reveal the secret of Grand Rapids, and it’s been a secret far too long,” Tadlock says.

He says he was immediately sold on the city when he first came here because of the many “great venues and great people.”

Tadlock wishes native Grand Rapidians would better appreciate the area and take advantage of the diverse restaurants and cultural activities the city has to offer more often. He is certainly trying to do his part to experience everything.

If by now, you’re beginning to think Tadlock is bordering on perfection, think again.

“I’m so far from perfect, it’s not even funny,” he laughs.

He admits doesn’t sleep, exercise or eat enough. Tadlock says he also doesn’t stop to reflect enough either as he’s always on to the next thing.

“I don’t take the time to reflect on what I just experienced because I have an insatiable thirst for learning and experiencing new things all the time,” says Tadlock, admitting that he should probably stop to “smell the roses” every once and a while.

Tadlock forgets people’s names all the time, too.

“I’ll never forget a face, where we met or what you were wearing that day, but I might forget your name,” he says.

No matter his flaws, Tadlock wakes up each day and genuinely wants to make a positive difference. He says he’s “just an ordinary guy who is trying to make the world a little better.”

He only volunteers for organizations he’s passionate about and doesn’t “give a damn who’s watching.” That’s not why he does it. The Marine in him associates his goal of improving the attitude or life of one person at a time with the philosophy of “conquering one beach head at a time.”

He also encourages others to do little things that will make a difference––“Paint a door. Plant a flower. Something.”

For now, Tadlock will continue to volunteer, advocate for the community and live life to its fullest.

“There are 24 hours in a day,” he says. “I want to be engaged in life because time is short. Tomorrow is not promised.”

Heidi Stukkie is a freelance writer, graphic designer and marketing consultant. She is currently finishing her B.A. in Professional Writing and Journalism at Grand Valley State University. She advises everyone to finish college when young because doing it in your forties is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Heidi is slightly obsessed with the news and not much happens in the world she’s not aware of. Whenever she has extra cash and can find a sitter for her two spoiled dogs, she visits Santa Fe, New Mexico to recharge. Heidi hopes to write a best-selling novel someday so she can afford to live there permanently. You can find her on Twitter at @HeidiSocial.



2 Comments

  1. Abby wrote:

    As predicted, I am exhausted just reading this feature. He sounds like quite an incredible man and I can imagine that having the opportunity to spend time with him would both inspire and intrigue those he meets, about both the city and his experiences.

    I should take his advice and take advantage of more that GR has to offer…

  2. Lisa Townsend wrote:

    I know Eddie personally…as a friend. And Heidi. This is a very well written article and very accurate. It shows how much of an individual we each are and not that easy to understand until you really talk to someone and learn about them. Eddie is a great person. Very supportive and interested in seeing others do well.