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 travelling long distances on land to accessing the most remote points on land and water, the Hay River dealership has, for decades, risen to the occasion.
Lee Cawson, the general manager of the dealership says that while used and new Ford vehicles have long been a staple of the store, the location is actually a “jack-of-all-trades” establishment that also offers many other features.
Parts and service, warranty work, maintenance and oil changes as well as sales of fluids, RV parts and equipment, quads, power equipment, generators, snowblowers and boat motors — all are in high demand by northern shoppers.
Because Aurora Ford’s location is a natural historical point of importance at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, the store has been sending goods and equipment downriver to other communities for decades.
“Northern communities are so small that they can’t have specialized stores to sell Honda power equipment, for example, so we have to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades place and be able to supply (people) with what they need and keep busy enough to make sure a business is viable,” he said.
“The Hay River location is important because it was always a hub for the North. Because of its location we were able to ship vehicles on barges up the Mackenzie Valley to Norman Wells and up to the Arctic on the Northern Transportation Company Limited (now the Marine Transportation Services) We were able to do that from Hay River and that is why it was the first location in the NWT.”
Today, the dependence on the barge service every year continues to be an important part of the business, Cawson said.
In a good year, the company may ship about 20 vehicles by barge to different communities.
An ideal shipping season would see about six to seven boats being sent down river to northern communities.
The boating market is big in the Hay River area, Cawson says. While Yellowknife boaters tend to boat on the big lake, Cawson says Hay River-ites enjoy multiple rivers.
“So boating might be a bit different in that regard but I think people are willing to buy a lot of boats because they are low maintenance and people just love them up here,” he said.
While he admits COVID-19 made doing business difficult, at times, he said the last year yielded unexpected results.
The company maintained their sales because, even in a pandemic, people need vehicles.
“People still need transportation and they need to fix their vehicles they have,” he said. “We also have lots of contracts for manufacturing for things like water tankers and sewage trucks.
“So we were still busy and customers, in not being able to leave the territory and having to stay up here, it probably helped us out a little bit as people put money into boats and quads instead of vacations.”
Aurora Ford 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 on this link qrco.de/bcCn5H. Prize draws are set for July 23 and will be announced on BuyNorth’s Facebook page.