Getting to the core of food needs in Haines Junction

High ceilings, track lighting and wooden shelving are not what you would expect to see inside a typical highway stop in the Yukon, let alone one that also offers parsnip chips and organic yogurts.

High ceilings, track lighting and wooden shelving are not what you would expect to see inside a typical highway stop in the Yukon, let alone one that also offers parsnip chips and organic yogurts.

But the owner of the Little Green Apple in Haines Junction says her store is anything but typical.

“It’s on the trendy side,” said Paula Pawlovich.

It’s been six months since the experienced entrepreneur opened the doors to her new business, ending a three-year absence of a grocery store in the community.

The closure of Madley’s General Store in the fall of 2011 meant that residents in the area had to drive to Whitehorse to get their groceries, a 300-kilometre drive round-trip.

The Little Green Apple offers a mix of natural and organic foods to go along with mainstream groceries.

You can find freshly baked croissants, cinnamon buns and breads or pick up a cup of Midnight Sun coffee.

One traveler even came back for the brew four times, Pawlovich said.

“We’re trying to serve a multitude of tastes out here,” she added.

“As we get to know our customers better, we’ll fine tune our purchasing and the products we offer. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

It was a hectic opening day, Pawlovich said, that included the untimely crash of her point-of-sale system.

But fortunately, people waiting in line were understanding, she added.

“It’s not like we bought a chain and it came with an instruction manual, we did this from scratch.”

These days she’s gearing up for a busy summer season, having worked out most of the kinks that come with running a grocery store.

After Pawlovich and her partner bought a gas station a few years ago, the building next to it was “begging to be turned into a little grocery store.”

As she began her research into how other stores were set up, she was particularly inspired by the Mountain Market in Haines, Alaska as well as the Riverside Grocery store in Whitehorse, she said.

One day, while she was shopping at Choices Markets in Vancouver, she ran into the manager of the store and ended up having lunch with him to learn more about the business side of things.

“Food is a fragile business,” she said, “because you’re not just dealing with buying something, you’re managing best before dates and what people like and don’t like.”

“It’s like a giant Tetris puzzle that you’re constantly trying to finish but it never ends. And supplies is a whole other kettle of fish.”

But starting a new business is familiar territory for Pawlovich, who has also run a construction company, a hotel, a desktop publishing company and a video production company in the 30 years she’s been in the Yukon.

She said there was a moment when she wanted to give it all up, comparing it to when she went into labour with her eldest daughter.

“I remember thinking, I don’t want to play this game anymore, it’s too hard,” she said.

“But we’re open, the community loves it and we’ll keep getting better.”

Pawlovich is hoping that a low Canadian dollar, coupled with low gas prices, will encourage Alaskans to venture into the Yukon this summer.

She’s doing well financially, she said, but would like to be busier.

That will depend largely on Haines Junction residents weaning off their dependence on Whitehorse businesses, she added.

“If you provide good service, a good product mix at good prices, a place that’s clean and friendly, people will start changing their routines,” she said.

The Little Green Apple is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Starting June 1, it will be open Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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