Spencer Remple had an opportunity to move North for work, but he could hardly find any information on some of the remote communities of the territories – and what news he did find was often negative – so he decided to document it himself.
“I was a boat salesman in Edmonton,” said Remple, who is currently working as interim assistant manager with his wife and manager, Kate, at the Northern Store in Chesterfield Inlet.
He got a call for a boat sale from a man in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, “way up north, more north than I ever even knew that people existed.”
Getting that boat up north fascinated Remple, who suddenly had a craving to learn more and experience a whole different type of life from what he was used to after growing up in southern Canada. And he didn’t want to just experience it as a tourist would.
He was looking for a career change and, along with his wife, took a job with the North West Company as a store manager, attracted to the opportunity to fill some of the remote roles in the company.
“When you’re a store manager in these remote communities, you’re really performing a service for the community,” he said. “You have an opportunity to make a difference.”
Many communities have only one store, some with two, and the North West Company offers all types of essential products and services to people, making the store a valuable need in each community.
“My wife and I thought, that’s a really neat thing we can be involved in. You’re all the way up here and a good store can really make your life better.”
The pair started in a permanent position but recently moved to filling in for other managers when they are on vacation or medical leave.
That journey brought them to Pond Inlet last year and now Chesterfield Inlet in 2022.
With Remple goes his video skills and YouTube channel. Though he grew up in the south, he’s familiar with small towns and knows “there’s good everywhere you go” and thought the positive aspects of the North deserved more airtime. Now he uses his platform to show off each community he’s in, record traditional activities and help southerners get to know what the North is truly like. Plus, he gets to show how different running a small store in the North is compared to a big retail outlet in the south.
His North West Company playlist on YouTube has 72 videos and growing. So now when southerners look up Chesterfield Inlet online, they will see the store, the community and it will all seem more familiar to city dwellers, he said.
“There are beautiful people up here, wonderful families, good groups, support programs, people working, advancing and moving forward,” he said.
For Remple, polar night in Pond Inlet was something to get used to.
“You didn’t know whether it was 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning,” he said, adding that the community was very friendly and welcoming.
He was also fascinated to document and learn more about traditional hunting, fishing and trapping in Pond Inlet.
“I’m really happy to be able to shine a light on that,” he said. “People are still living close to their traditions and living off of the land. I think that’s an important thing for people in the south to know.”
For any southerners reading this and thinking of going North, Remple couldn’t talk up the Northwest Company enough for its willingness to train and accommodate staff.
“I tell you, in the North, it’ll challenge you,” he said. “That’s for sure. There’s always more challenges than there are in the South. It’s always exciting. It’s always an adventure. So hard work and good attitude people, join up. There’s lots of work to be done.”
Managing a store in a small community also gives him a unique opportunity to be a central figure in the community rather than a faceless retail manager, like one might be in the south.
“This kind of job will bring you much more personal satisfaction and meaning when you have that ability where you can see the effect that you’re making on people,” he said.
So if you see a smiling, bearded man with a camera in hand in your community, it might be Remple. He wants you to know he’d love to meet you, do interviews, go out on the land and just be part of the Northern culture, for however long he’s in town.
His YouTube channel can be found under the name Spencer Remple.