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Arctic Connection opens in Rankin Inlet

Surge so large, staff had to briefly close the kitchen
Reuben Aliyak smiles while browsing the new Arctic Connection outlet. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Word didn’t take long to spread that Arctic Connection’s new store – or rather, two stores – were opening in Rankin Inlet Friday, Dec. 16.

From 8 a.m. on, the stores by the four-way stop downtown were packed with folks checking out the new retail outlet, and the parking lot was almost as busy as the arena on a hockey night.

The sales and excitement can do the talking, whereas the Ramsay family who run it prefer to stay humble.

“We don’t like to talk about ourselves,” said Jim Ramsay, owner.

Living in Rankin Inlet in the ‘90s, Ramsay started Arctic Connection in Winnipeg in 2002, then moved to Arviat and opened a retail outlet there a decade ago. The successful businessman, whose family all play prominent roles in the operation, decided Rankin Inlet would be his home for the long-term.

“We left here 21 years ago,” said Ramsay. “My wife and I decided this is where we want to retire. Won’t have any rest to retire, but this is our last stop. This is where we want to be.”

The new Rankin Inlet store offers late hours – with takeout services extending to midnight throughout the week – and both a hard goods store and restaurant side. Some of the low prices were already delighting customers on opening day.

“We’re all about sharing and trying to keep the prices down,” said Ramsay, who’s also trying to provide services currently unavailable in town.

The takeout restaurant side of the operation is inspired partially by his time flying from Arviat through Rankin Inlet, where after 6 p.m., there’s hardly anywhere to find hot food in the Kivalliq capital.

It’s also inspired by the old Kativik store in Rankin Inlet. The store is still in operation by the Northwest Company, but it was previously a family business that offered late hours for a wide variety of goods.

Lots of people work on snow machines or the like late into the night, said Ramsay, and he wants to provide an option for them to pick up the tools they need and a pizza at the same time, even if it’s 11 p.m. on a Tuesday.

In fact, Ramsay used to supply Kativik before the store changed ownership.

“That was a big factor for us deciding” to open the Arctic Connection store, said Ramsay.

Once Kativik became a Northern entity, Ramsay made up his mind that it was time for more options in town.

His daughter Ashley Still, also part of the business, echoed that sentiment.

“We’re not here to compete directly with somebody,” she said, recognizing that every store in town offers different varieties of goods. “We’re here to provide a different option and do what we do best, and that’s it.”

Still said the family was scared to look at the total cost of opening the store, which was delayed a month and a half due to supply chain issues. But the Ramsays’ know-how and connections with shipping means the store can offer impressively low prices on commodities, and they’re not in it to lose money.

“We’re volume driven, and we take advantage of sealift,” said Ramsay. “We find any space we can to bring in sealift to keep prices down. That’s the bottom line.”

That includes making special orders when customers request it.

“Our customers are our family,” said Still.

By the time of the interview with Kivalliq News the afternoon of opening Dec. 16, the store had already sold more than 500 breakfast sandwiches, forcing it to close the kitchen for a period so staff and the machines could catch up.

But Ramsay isn’t done here. Early in the new year, he plans to launch delivery services, and then eventually he’s eyeing a shuttle service between the new store and the airport for people on layovers to be able to shop and get something to eat.

“We’re just happy to be back,” he said with a smile.

Tiana Manernaluk loads a bag of groceries on opening day in the hard goods side of the new Arctic Connection store. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo