Inuvik's Wrangling River Supply set to close after nearly 30 years in business

·3 min read
Lionel and Judy Harder, owners of Wrangling River Supply in Inuvik, N.W.T., first started their company in 1992. After 32 years in Inuvik, the pair are closing up shop and moving to Whitehorse. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)
Lionel and Judy Harder, owners of Wrangling River Supply in Inuvik, N.W.T., first started their company in 1992. After 32 years in Inuvik, the pair are closing up shop and moving to Whitehorse. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)

After nearly three decades of running Wrangling River Supply in the Beaufort Delta region in the Northwest Territories, owners Lionel and Judy Harder have decided it's time for a change.

The couple, who first started the company in 1992, are set to close the store in mid-June.

"I was working awful hard for everybody else so I thought why don't I try something for myself," said Lionel.

The store has been known to sell a variety of items over the years, most recently furniture, sweets from a vast candy bar, souvenirs, balloons and other items.

A long journey

The store started in a van filled with food that would travel into communities.

"I spent about $2,000 on groceries," said Lionel, "had it hauled up and I bought a little 1980 old van … hooked a skidoo trailer behind it, put some sides on it and threw some tables in."

He still remembers the first time they travelled in their mobile store — it was to Tsiigehtchic and they were "scared stiff to take that step."

He says when some people heard what they were doing, they were invited to park in their yard.

"That's how it started and that day we sold about $3,400 [worth of food] between Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson,"

Judy and Lionel Harder went over memories of their business, from its early start in a van as a mobile grocery store to where the shop they run in Inuvik, N.W.T.
Judy and Lionel Harder went over memories of their business, from its early start in a van as a mobile grocery store to where the shop they run in Inuvik, N.W.T.(Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The pair went on to selling groceries from a school bus, a truck with a trailer on it and then their house. Along the way they had help from community members.

"Going to the communities was life changing," said Judy. "Even now we have the kids who are now grown who say 'I remember when I used to come on to your bus, and we used to buy candy.'"

In 2000, they bought their first town shop, which was built in 1956. They renovated and opened a grocery store in 2001, and stayed in groceries until 2005.

Eventually, they got involved with the government of the Northwest Territories and transitioned the building into a bottle depot, which also doubled as a grocery store.

In 2010 they faced another hurdle when the bottle depot burned down.

New adventure ahead

"It was devastating at the time," said Judy. "But we just rallied with God's help."

In 2017, they got out of the bottle depot business to open their current gift, furniture and supply store in 2018.

Their customer clientele once included both locals and tourists but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, tourism came to a suddent halt.

"That's why we are having candy today when COVID hit … I thought of candy and it brought customers that had never been in our store even though they had been in town all their life. It just pulled us through this last year."

Judy Harder going through photos, stirring up memories of the journey they took with their business over the years.
Judy Harder going through photos, stirring up memories of the journey they took with their business over the years.(Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Paul McDonald has bought the building and will be moving in with his Hawks Supply store. The Harders said they felt it was the right time to sell.

The couple have lived in Inuvik for 32 years, and are planning for a different adventure in the North — to live in Whitehorse.

"We have wonderful memories and this has been home," said Judy. "We just want to thank all of our customers over the many years … and we thank you for being a part of our lives."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting