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One store opens, one closes in Arviat

Arviat Home Hardware celebrates grand opening; Co-op building sold
Folks gather to witness the official opening of the new Home Hardware store in Arviat Oct. 21. Photo courtesy of Kacey-Lee Anderson

Some history is bolstered and some is lost in Arviat, as the Home Hardware recently celebrated a grand opening while the local Co-op was sold.

“It was a pretty amazing experience this morning,” said Mark Colley, president and chief financial officer of Eskimo Point Lumber Supply (EPLS), which runs the Home Hardware.

He had just participated in a wood-cutting ceremony to officially open Arviat’s new Home Hardware on Oct. 21, though the business had actually been open for a couple of months.

About 100 people attended the event, in which EPLS executives and government officials paid their congratulations.

Also present was Don St. John, founder of EPLS. The original Home Hardware in Arviat was built out of his house in the 1970s. That was eventually torn down, and the new Home Hardware replacing it is double the size – about 11,000 square feet, with 13 rooms upstairs.

On official opening day, the store did a record number of sales, though Colley wouldn’t divulge how much money that added up to.

“I spoke to quite a few people in the store that were very happy the store was built and that it looks so new and so big,” he said. “I haven’t had anyone come to me to tell me anything but positive feedback from it.”

The retail location also includes a prepared foods area, a new venture the company is experimenting with.

At the opening ceremony, a Home Hardware representative presented St. John and his family with a golden saw in recognition of the achievement.

Struggling Co-op finally shuts lights

It was a record day in sales for Home Hardware, but one store in Arviat that seemed to have trouble making sales was the Padlei Co-op’s retail outlet, which was shuttered in mid-October after the board elected to accept an offer for the building.

Duane Wilson, vice-president of stakeholder relations with Arctic Co-operatives, said the retail store was some-50 years old but had “more downs than ups” in recent years.

“It’s certainly unfortunate that in Arviat it didn’t have the same sort of support for retail that is seen in other communities,” he said.

The Arctic is an economically challenging environment to operate in, he noted.

“It’s fairly easy to dig a financial hole just because of the high-cost environment, but a lot tougher to get out of it,” said Wilson.

He wouldn’t disclose who purchased the store or for what price, only saying the Padlei Co-op decided to focus on its other ventures in town, including hotel, food and cable TV services.

The Arviat Co-op was successful in the past, to the point that the company built a new building for it, “which comes with great cost,” said Wilson, adding that he’s sure the closure wasn’t an easy decision for the board.

He explained that the nature of Co-ops in the Arctic is that they are very dependent on the one, two, three or four people in key leadership positions.

“How the operation works is often very dependent on that key person,” said Wilson, alluding to what may have led to the store’s decline. “If you’ve got a period where you perhaps don’t have somebody with strong relationships within the community or well-liked by the members… business suffers, because oftentimes it’s a very high-profile position.”

Charlotte St. John, wife of Eskimo Point Lumber Supply founder Don St. John, cuts the wood to open Home Hardware in Arviat. To the left is Don St. John, with chief operating officer Derrick Webster on the right. Photo courtesy of Kacey-Lee Anderson