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Inuit-owned business keeps thriving

Kalgen's store, a successful Inuit-owned business in Cambridge Bay, has been a fixture in the community for the past seven years. Now the thriving business is weathering the pandemic which is threatening businesses across the territory.

Kalgen's is a family- and Inuit-owned business, with their name deriving from the family name Neglak. Owner Natasha Lear, who's maiden name is Neglak, and husband Keith Lear opened their doors in November of 2013. Natasha spent most of her life in Cambridge Bay, where she met her husband Keith Lear who is originally from Newfoundland.

Husband and wife team Keith, left, and Natasha Lear have built their business from the ground up since founding in Cambridge Bay in 2013.
photo courtesy of Natasha Lear

Natasha said that through hard work they built a business with money from their own pockets with no government grants or funding.

The store has made their name in the community by carrying everything from candy to car supplies and everything in between.

"We are a convenience/general and grocery store, here you can make special orders of any items or come to the store to shop for groceries – we carry major brands," she said. "As well, we carry country food which we purchase from Kivalliq Country Foods in Rankin. We carry cleaning supplies, huge line of snacks and retro candy, soft serve ice cream, sweetest slush, house ware, gift ideas, camping gear and general truck/ATV parts and oil. You can also rent vehicles, cube van, ATVs or request snow clearing and freight cartage," said Natasha.

Residents of Cambridge Bay support the store. Joan McCallum said, "It's nice that we can order what the other stores don't have."

"It's always convenient when the stores are closed in the evenings and they always order muktuk, caribou meat and dry meat. We love it," said Eva Komak.
Natasha added, "During the Covid pandemic we purchase pre-made meals and baked goods from another local business, Kuugaq Cafe and sell them at our store."

Owning a business can have it's challenges, Natasha said, "Finding reliable staff who are willing to work shifts with long (busy) hours, receiving freight in a timely manner and competing with big corporations" are all part of operating remotely.

Dealing with Covid-19 has also presented some challenges.

"The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the closure of our airport location. We allow store credit to commercial customers but not to individuals."
But for now, the Lear's will continue to do what they can supplying the hamlet.

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