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

 

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

Just Posted

Hitting their stride: hockey school inspires Indigenous youth

‘If you guys put your mind to it and do good in school and come here and train, anyone can do it’

YG helping Whistle Bend hires facing housing hunt

‘We always knew there would be significant housing required’

Kaska Dena Council hunting consultation trial wraps up

Yukon government has a ‘selective case of amnesia’ about the KDC, the society’s lawyer said

City of Whitehorse to unveil plans for Whistle Bend town square

‘We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel’

New logo unveiled for 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships

‘I think bringing this tournament to Whitehorse will show some of these kids what is possible’

Yukon man found guilty of sexually abusing two girls

The man was found guilty of three counts of sexual interference and acquitted on two others

Destruction Bay motel owners appeal human rights pantsing case

Talbot Arm Motel co-owners Suzanne Tremblay and Charles Eikland filed a notice of appeal July 10

Atlin’s music festival breaks the rules, in a good way

With no cell service and the marketing kept to a minimum, this little festival is actually fun

New name, same data: Carproof to become Carfax Canada

Automotive data firm Carproof has announced that its name will change to… Continue reading

Jessica Frotten captures 4 medals at Canadian Track and Field Championships

‘I’ve had such amazing support system, that’s number one’

Whitehorse dressage show a competition for all ages

‘It’s about being one with your horse and working as a team and celebrating the harmony’

Dawson regional land use planning commission to be restored by fall

Plans were suspended while the Peel planning commission case worked its way through the courts

Most Read