With the support of those around him, John Niakrok has taken a leap of faith by quitting his government job to chase a dream of opening his own restaurant in Rankin Inlet.
“Yesterday was my last day with the Government of Nunavut,” said Niakrok while prepping at Iglu Donairs, his new restaurant in the Agnico Eagle Arena.
“I made that choice to pursue my dream. It’s an exciting, big step.”
Two weeks earlier, he handed in his resignation as a corrections supervisor at the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility. He had been working for the government for more than 12 years.
When the opportunity came up for the restaurant spot in the arena last fall, he bid and won it.
“I had a lot of support from my family,” said Niakrok. “Before I got this canteen, every other week I would sell donairs at my place. The demand was high. I know they like donairs (here).”
In addition to donairs, Niakrok will be offering all sorts of arena food, including pizzas, fries, homemade burgers, hot dogs, poutines, nachos and more.
“Once we start going back to normal with tournaments, it’s going to be busy,” he said, adding that he was pleasantly surprised with how sales were going already.
He’ll need those sales, too – Niakrok spent about $9,000 to $12,000 on preparing the business for customers, including a trip to Winnipeg to buy kitchen gear.
“It costs money to start a business,” he said. “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”
He plans to differentiate Iglu Donairs from other restaurants in Rankin Inlet by offering later opening hours and delivery. He plans to be full-time for lunch and supper, plus brunch on the weekends.
Niakrok got his interest in cooking from his father and cooking shows.
“I’m excited,” he said, adding that his family and friends have supported him during the journey. “We’re excited.”