First Nation buys Madley’s General Store

The wrecking ball will soon be swinging for the old Madley's General Store in Haines Junction, but if the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations' gamble works out, the community will see a new grocery store.

The wrecking ball will soon be swinging for the old Madley’s General Store in Haines Junction, but if the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations’ gamble works out, the community will see a new grocery store and retail centre rise from the ashes.

CAFN’s community corporation has bought the property where Madley’s currently sits. The corporation is planning to tear it down and build a new facility that will hopefully house a full grocery store, and at least a couple other retail spaces as well, explained Natalie Oles, the community corporation’s general manager.

The community corporation looked at trying to save the building and refurbish it, but the costs were just too high, Oles said.

“We did some pre-feasibility studies looking at renovating it versus decommissioning it and starting from scratch. Haines Junction needs a bit of a retail complex. For safety reasons the decision has been to decommission the existing building, and over the course of the winter you’ll see just a flat piece of property there,” Oles said.

The whole project hinges on finding tenants for any potential new building, she said. She has been talking with some potential grocers who could agree to lease the new space, but moving those discussions onto paper is the next big step, she said.

“We foresee a bit of a food venue, something hopefully towards a bit more of a healthier diet. We’re going to be seeking some other potential retail folks that would be interested in leasing. It could be anything. We could be approaching the government,” Oles said.

Haines Junction has been without a full grocery store since Madley’s closed two years ago. Since then, residents have been driving to Whitehorse to do their shopping, but it’s at least an hour and a half’s drive, one way.

Having a proper grocery store again would go a long way to helping keep Haines Junction alive, Oles said.

“It’s a vital part of the community’s needs. In addition to that, Madley’s was sort of a hub of the community, so they’ve lost that. At one point there was the easy fast foods for people just passing by. There was the banking agent and post office. It was a real social gathering place and we hope to bring that life back to the community.

“I don’t want to say the community is dying, but right now trying to urge people to move to Haines Junction is really difficult when there aren’t a lot of services here,” she said.

In February 2012, a group of Haines Junction citizens came together to try to address the lack of groceries themselves. They formed a co-op and hoped they could revive the Madley’s location with prices competitive with Whitehorse’s big box stores.

That initiative ultimately fell through, however, largely because rehabilitating the Madley’s building was just too much work for a co-op to take on, Oles said.

While the idea of a new grocery story in town is appealing to many, one man who has been trying to fill the gap himself thinks it’s a foolish idea.

“I’ll tell you this right now. These people are so tuned and programmed to go to Whitehorse to get their stuff, it’s only an hour and 20 minutes, and the road is good,” said Richard Mazur, who runs the Kluane RV Kampground.

This past fall, Mazur decided to start stocking more grocery basics like bread, milk, and other staples at his main office and gas station. He even expanded his shelf space, and brought in new freezers and fridges to store the goods.

The items have been selling, he said, but he’s not convinced that anyone can compete with the prices at Whitehorse’s Walmart or Superstore.

“They’re going to go to Whitehorse and go to the big box stores to get their essentials. Nobody’s going to do a full-fledged grocery shop here, if you went in and bought $300, $400 worth of groceries. You’re not going to do that here,” he said.

“I don’t want to disappoint anybody, but anyone who wants to open a big grocery store is just not going to make it because of Whitehorse. Look how close it is,” Mazur said.

For now, he will continue offering his modest selection of groceries, but it isn’t his main source of income and if another competitor takes that business, Mazur said he’s happy to go back to selling gas and campground sites.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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

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

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

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

Most Read