Games a win for Whitehorse businesses

The Northwest Territories junior female speed skating team picked up a gold medal for the 3000-metre relay last week, but that wasn't all the girls took home.

The Northwest Territories junior female speed skating team picked up a gold medal for the 3000-metre relay last week, but that wasn’t all the girls took home.

The entire team also spent an afternoon combing the racks at And-Again Consignment Store, looking for clothes that presumably would go well with a gold ulu.

As owner Janice Lattin rang up their purchases, they told her their goal was to hit all the secondhand stores in town.

It was a scene that played itself out again and again in Whitehorse stores last week.

“We were expecting a nice hit from the Arctic Winter Games but I think we got more, much more than we expected,” said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

With about 2,000 athletes, coaches and staff from all over the circumpolar North invading Whitehorse for the week, restaurants and hotels expected a windfall but retailers also got a boost.

“It’s been a great week for us,” said Genevieve Beaudin, the manager of Board Stiff. “Some kids were coming to shop here everyday and coming back to buy more the next day.

“They were not just looking around, they were actually buying. They brought money to buy stuff here,” she said.

Compared to the same time last year, sales at the store doubled, she said.

Given that a lot of the participants are from relatively small northern communities, Beaudin wasn’t that surprised with the rush.

“You have to think that a lot of those kids are from little small towns where there’s not necessarily as many options for shopping and the stuff costs a lot more money – if you live in Russia, for example. So for them, it’s like coming into the city,” she said.

Shoes and clothes were the biggest sellers.

“They were definitely into the clothes,” said Beaudin. “All of the brands sold really well. The same stuff we sell to our customers here, Fox and DC and the brands that are a little more edgy.”

While most of the kids brought money, some also brought translators, she said.

“There was a few that didn’t speak much English, but everybody could get around,” said Beaudin. “They were super, super nice. They had really good ways, everybody was smiling, everybody was having fun.

“It was an awesome, good experience for everyone all over.”

While business was booming, it wasn’t all about the money, said Sandor Elek, of Sandor’s Clothing.

“Of course, we saw an uptick in business. How could you not, with an extra 2,000 people in town?” said Elek. “But sales aside, it’s the buzz, it’s the energy created with all the international visitors.”

With all the extra traffic, it was a little hectic for Elek because he was right in the middle of expanding his business.

“We went from 1,200 to 3,400 square feet,” he said. “We had to close for two days right in the middle (of the Games) because I needed to get everything set up. But when we’re set up, we’re set up. Now, boy, it’s an incredible store.

“One little First Nation kid comes up to the counter. He’s like, ‘I don’t like this store.’ We all looked at him and he goes, ‘I love it.’

“That was the best compliment of the games,” said Elek.

Across the street, Walmart was also unusually busy.

“We were up 12 per cent in customer count,” said store manager Brad Blankenagel.

“It was wonderful having the traffic in the store and they were spending money, which was a good thing.”

While essentials like pillows, sheets and blankets were hot items, that wasn’t all that people were looking for, he said.

“Electronics were definitely big sellers,” said Blankenagel “We sold really well in Apple products and fragrances were really popular as well.”

Before they returned home, many of the athletes made a stop at the hairdresser, said Karp, whose wife owns Hair Sensations.

“It was crazy at the salon. You just couldn’t get in. It was just packed, packed all the time,” he said. “The athletes were coming in and just getting some really reds and pinks and purples and yellows and shaving half of their head. It was great.”

The boost for Whitehorse businesses was even better than that experienced during the 2007 Canada Winter Games, said Karp.

“Who knows what the actual reason is,” he said. “It was just wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: Climate emergency, lite edition

Back in September 2019, Whitehorse City Council declared a climate emergency, to… Continue reading

Yukon Employees’ Union says a lack of staff training and high turnover at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter is creating a dangerous situation for underpaid workers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Employees’ Union says lack of training at emergency shelter leading to unsafe situations

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said the staffing policy “is evolving”

Justice Karen Wenckebach will begin serving as resident judge on the Yukon Supreme Court early next year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
All-female justice roster ‘a good step’ for diversity in Yukon Supreme Court

Karen Wenckebach is the third woman appointed to the Yukon Supreme Court in history

The Liberal government blocked a motion by Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers that would have asked the federal government to provide the territories with more than a per capita amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses during initial distribution. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Party says a per capita distribution of vaccines would leave Yukon short

The opposition is also asking the government to release their plan for vaccine distribution


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 4, 2020

A sign outside the Yukon Inn Convention Centre indicates Yukoners can get a flu vaccine inside. As of Dec. 4, the vaccinations won’t be available at the convention centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse Convention Centre ends flu vaccination service early

Flu vaccinations won’t be available at the Whitehorse Convention Centre after Dec.… Continue reading

COMMENTARY: Land use planning must include industry

Carl Schulze Special to the News This commentary is a response to… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White River First Nation to run for councillors in the 2021 election. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News File)
White River First Nation to elect new chief and council

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White… Continue reading

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new councillor in a byelection held Dec. 3. (Wikimedia Commons)
Watson Lake elects new councillor

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new… Continue reading

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Most Read