Old Crow residents plan co op store

A group of Old Crow residents have banded together to start a co-operative retail store. Tracy Rispin is one of eight founding directors.

A group of Old Crow residents have banded together to start a co-operative retail store.

Tracy Rispin is one of eight founding directors.

“The reason we want a co-op store is to decrease the high prices of good food in our community,” she said. “As you know, we’re an isolated community and we have all our produce and groceries flown in.”

Currently, the only store in town is the Northern Store. That store benefits from the federal Nutrition North program, which subsidizes shipping prices on healthy foods.

But many Old Crow residents preferred the previous Food Mail program, which allowed them to buy their own groceries in Whitehorse and ship them up at subsidized rates.

Shipping to the community is still subsidized, but to a much lesser extent.

Darius Elias, the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, has spoken out against the Nutrition North program, saying it does not meet the needs of residents of Old Crow.

It costs $26.16 per kilogram for red seedless grapes in Old Crow, he said in April.

Rispin said that a co-op store will allow the community to make the kind of store that it wants.

“It’s to decrease the prices and also to meet the community needs. What does the community really want to see in their store, and how can we work towards that?”

In addition to the store, the plan is for the co-operative to manage two rental suites for visitors to the community.

Currently, two bed-and-breakfasts are the only short-term rentals available.

The new suites “will be another place for accommodations for visitors,” said Rispin. “With that happening, money will be generated back into the co-op, and therefore we will offer lower food prices.”

In order to establish the co-operative, the directors must submit an application to the Yukon government.

Then, Old Crow residents will be asked to purchase shares in the co-op.

Within 90 days, a meeting must be held to elect a chair and board members.

The co-op will be located next to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation’s maintenance compound. The plan is to have the store open in July 2014.

The directors have been working closely with Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. to make this happen, said Rispin.

That group co-ordinates 31 community co-operatives across the North.

A co-op for Old Crow is “a long time coming,” said Rispin. “What people like about the co-op is, and this is why I volunteered myself to sit on the board, 100 per cent of the profit from the co-op gets invested back into the community. And that’s what I like. Because we can’t solely depend on our First Nation government to fund everything that we want to see in our community, so this will be another business where we can invest in our community.”

Neither the NorthWest Company, which runs the Northern, nor Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. could be reached for comment by press time.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at