Soapmaker rebrands Carcross storefront

Woah Bear! offers locally-sourced soap and artwork

If you’re looking for Anto Yukon soap, you could hit up the closest Holt Renfrew, but that’s a 1,900-kilometre trip.

Rather than go all that way, only to have to dig past the Gucci purses and Chanel coats to get your hands on a bar of Kluane soap — complete with glacial silt gathered near the national park — you could just drive to Carcross.

That’s where Anto soap maker Kym Rempel runs Whoa Bear!, a micro storefront that sells her soap alongside work from a variety of artists from across Canada.

Born in Manitoba, Rempel didn’t move to the Yukon to open a store in Carcross Commons. She landed here by chance, and maybe a bit of teenage rebellion.

Growing up, Rempel’s family moved around a lot, including, much to her chagrin, to Ontario while she was in high school.

“The month I graduated I took the Greyhound bus as far from Ontario as it would go and that was the Yukon,” she says. “It was great. I fell in love with it.”

She bounced back and forth between the Yukon and other places before moving here permanently in 2009.

With a background in resource management and GIS mapping, she worked in government for a while. She started making soap on the side in 2013, and eventually decided to focus on creative work full-time.

She says one of her “made-it” moments was when Holt Renfrew contacted her about a wholesale order of her soap. Rempel thought it was a joke, but the high-end department store chain had found her through Instagram.

That’s where a lot of her suppliers find her, Rempel says. Now she stocks dozens of shops across Canada, in the U.S., and online.

Rempel decided to open her own bricks-and-mortar shop two years ago. Making soap is a solitary, studio-based practice, and Rempel wanted a social outlet as well.

In the summer of 2017, she ran the store under the name Anto Yukon.

Because she was also carrying goods from other artists, she changed the name this year to Whoa Bear! — a nod to the Parks Canada video Staying Safe in Bear Country. “Not as many people get it as I thought would,” she says.

Rempel opened for the season on May 4. She says foot traffic at the store is funny. In the summer, tourists travel by bus from cruise ships, descend on Carcross Commons in 15-minute bursts, and disappear.

There’s also a local market made up of people on day trips or showing family around the territory.

“In a way I’m trying to cater to both I feel,” she says. “In Yukon, I feel like when I go places and go into some shops, there’s a lot of them that are catering to more that kind of cruise ship vibe.”

Rempel says she wants to offer interesting Yukon souvenirs for tourists alongside the kinds of things locals might be looking for day-to-day.

Her soaps sell well, partly because of their $10 cost. They’re also an easy sell for locals (everybody bathes, after all) and for tourists because most are made with local ingredients.

Fox Lake soap includes fireweed, which has covered the Fox Lake landscape since a 1998 forest fire. Dawson City soap is blackened with activated charcoal and split by a vein of gold mica. Log Cabin is scented with pine and fir, and contains coffee grounds for exfoliation.

Rempel makes 16 scents altogether. It’s a lot, she says, especially considering the work. Each batch of soap takes only a couple hours to make, but then there are the hours of curing and cutting. It takes four weeks before the soap can be wrapped. Rempel does this by hand, in packaging she designed herself after licensing images from Yukon-born painter Megan Hildebrand.

If there’s a unifying theme to the rest of the work Rempel sells, it’s that she likes all of it. It’s also all-Canadian, and it’s all made in small batches, by individual artists.

“Basically everybody I’m ordering from is the maker of the product,” she says.

There’s pottery from Yukon’s Astrid Cruz and Toronto’s Shayna Stevenson. There’s lasercut wood jewellery from Vancouver-based Moonshine Dreams, and concrete earrings from Winnipeg’s Dconstruct.

Though Rempel has been open since May 4 (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), her grand opening is in two weeks. She says that’s when all the shops and services in the Commons are supposed to be open.

For a complete list of shops, amenities and hours, visit destinationcarcross.ca/shop

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

bearsCarcrosssoap making

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

 

Whoa Bear! owner Kym Rempel also sells her own line of soaps, Anto Yukon, in the store. (Submitted)

Just Posted

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read