MIDDLEBURG, Va. (WJLA) -- Building this five-star resort halted during the recession, and some in the community opposed the idea.
So Thursday's opening filled with locals, officials, and celebrities was a special triumph for owner Sheila Johnson - even after numerous precious successes, including co-founding BET and owning the Mystics.
"It's a dream," said Johnson. "It's definitely a dream come true and I can't begin to explain my feelings. I am filled with pride."
Set on 340 acres with 168 guest rooms, Johnson says the pride is for all those who helped make the Salamander a five-star destination. The resort has a virtual army on hand to wait on guests - from the team that greets you at the entrance, to the servers, to spa experts, to kitchen staff made up of top chefs.
Even horseback riders have been hired to give guests a feel for the 25-acre equestrian program.
Designer Donna Karan is teaming up her Urban Zen company with Salamander to try and teach busy Washingtonians and other guests balance -- something she and her friend Johnson both value.
"She's as crazy as I am -- or crazier!" said Karan.
With the resort bringing in hundreds of jobs and plenty of visitors to the area, most of the town's residents tell us they welcome the Salamander. However, others have their misgivings.
While area resident Adrienne Adels says, "It will be a boost for the Middleburg economy," another says:
"I worry it will bring too much traffic and I'm not convinced it will be a financial success."
Salamander Resort is now taking reservations. And while a room typically starts off at about $425 or more, the resort will be offering special rates and packages throughout the year.