Editorial Content

Norman Wells #ShopNWT participant Rampart Rentals grows and changes with the community

The amount of work that Joshua Earls does around Norman Wells might make observers wonder if the name of Rampart Rentals falls short of capturing everything his company is capable of.  And rentals have nothing to do with it.  “We’re a grocery and hardware store mostly,” said Earls. “When the store originally started it was a VHS and games rental store and sold snacks and candy.”  Over the years, as video and game rental shops disappeared almost everywhere, Rampart gradually changed into its current format.  Named after a fast-flowing stretch of the Mackenzie River near Fort Good Hope, Rampart is one of two grocery stores in the Sahtu town along with the Northern Store.  It also supplies the Imperial Oil camp, the health centre, the Yamouri and Heritage hotels and outfitting companies with essential goods.  From Ontario to the North with big plans  In the summer of 2008, Earls began the first of many visits from southern Ontario to Norman Wells where he worked for his uncle.  After he graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. in 2014 with a business degree, he moved permanently to the oil town. He and his two brothers then started working as assistant managers at Rampart under the previous owner Peter Guther.  The brothers saved up money for a down payment on the store and in 2016 purchased it from Guther.  The trio expanded Rampart’s services in 2018 beyond retail to include transportation services.  “We started up our own transportation company so we could do barging in the summer and bring up our own goods during the winter road season. We order our goods in Edmonton and our trucks drive them from Edmonton to Fort Simpson. They get barged up the Mackenzie from there. We own six trucks. We send about eight loads per year on the winter road and six or seven barge loads.”  They expanded again in 2019 when they became agents for Buffalo Airways, helping with the unloading of cargo from flights.  When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the NWT, Rampart modified its services to offer deliveries to the many people self-isolating after returning from outside the territory.  Residents emailed their grocery and other item orders and Rampart delivered them.  “The fact we were able to deliver basic necessities to people made them so happy,” Earls said.  The main challenge Earls has faced in the last five years is the difference between the education of business and the reality of it on the ground.  “You come out of university and you think you know what you’re doing and you realize that it’s a totally different ballgame when you start working in a business. The amount of hours you have to put in to keep things going. It’s a real-world thing. At the start it wasn’t easy because we had such big debt.”  New owner, new staff  On May 1 of this year, he bought out his brothers and became the sole owner, though the day-to-day functioning of the company mostly remains the same.  He and his new staff of five full-time workers and seven part-timers handle the three business arms of Rampart.  Expansion is on Earls’ mind again, this time towards cannabis.  “We’ve been granted the (tender) to become the cannabis retailer in the Sahtu under the Rampart Rentals name. We’re working on that. We expect it to get running in a year or two. It would be in the building beside us,” he said.  Almost six weeks into his new role as sole owner, Earls feels he’s finding his footing with Rampart.  “It takes longer than you might think to get everything running the way you want to,” Earls said. “Since May 1 it’s just been more work and more training. I didn’t have the extra staff for the first six weeks. I was working 15-hour days with no days off. It’s been pretty hectic. This week I finally feel like I can breathe.”  Rampart Rentals is one of may businesses participating in the NWT Chamber of Commerce’s #shopNWT campaign to connect shoppers with local businesses.  Spend a minimum of $500 to be entered to win the grand prize: The Ultimate Staycation package from The Explorer Hotel, or one of six $1,000 gift certificates to be spent at a #shopNWT-participating business. For a full list of participating businesses across the territory, visit buynorth.nnsl.com/shopnwt.  Collect one point for every dollar spent at a participating NWT business until July 18. You can also upload your receipt at this link: qrco.de/bcCn5H. Prize draws are set for July 23 and will be announced on BuyNorth’s Facebook page.  Receipts from participating businesses from June 14 will be accepted. Go to buynorth.nnsl.com/shopnwt, call (867) 4447700 or email info@auroracoupons.com or admin@nwtcamber.com for more information. 

Get in the driver’s seat at Aurora Ford with #ShopNWT

Living in the remote North, few in Canada appreciate their trucks, boats and quads more.  For more than 50 years, Aurora Ford Hay River has been the place to find an array of vehicles and accessories that help residents contend with the challenges of the cold and dark or sunny and warm seasonal climates. From …

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Medicine Shoppe just one of many #ShopNWT participants

Ian Wasserman likes doing business in Yellowknife because he says “it’s got a small-town feel.” And he knows a thing or two about small towns — he’s from Humboldt, Sask., originally. 13 years and one move to the North later, he says he said he likes doing business in Yellowknife because “it’s a really friendly …

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BACK TO BUSINESS: Hay River’s Poison Graphics first to receive GNWT funding support under new program

A Hay River business has become the first recipient of support under a new GNWT program. Poison Graphics received $100,000 to help with the purchase of a specialized printer. The funding, announced on Jan. 14, is the territorial government’s inaugural NWT Manufacturing Innovation and Technology Contribution. Introduced in the Northwest Territories Manufacturing Strategy of 2019, …

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BACK TO BUSINESS: Sole Fort Smith groomer Northern Hound Supply beats pandemic odds

The pandemic tried to take a bite out of Northern Hound Supply, but the year-old Fort Smith business is relatively unscathed amid the dog days of Covid. Anna Gervais launched Northern Hound Supply on Nov. 28, 2019, primarily as a grooming service. She added a store for pet food and other items. Her partner Robin …

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BACK TO BUSINESS: Just Furs reopens to warm up Yellowknifers in winter

Just Furs is back, just in time to help keep Yellowknifers warm as temperatures drop further, and as owner Kristine Bourque ponders the future of her shop. The Old Town fur apparel shop reopened on Nov. 2, more than seven months after Bourque closed it in March when the Covid-19 pandemic reached the NWT. Bourque …

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BACK TO BUSINESS: Do you know where your chocolate comes from?

It’s no secret that the chocolate industry can be shady business.  Before Cabin Snacks and Chocolate became foraged wild food chocolate bars, Sarah Van Stiphout originally sought to make baked goods with forest harvests and use chocolate as an additional ingredient.  When she saw how difficult it would be to find ethical, sustainably sourced chocolate …

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