The little shop that won't give up
It’s not easy to run a small family business in the North, but Kaila Anawak-Gamble is giving it everything she’s got at the Red Top Variety Shop in Rankin Inlet.
The store has been a hallmark of the community for 34 years, originally opened by John Gamble and Angela Anawak as the Inukshuk Shop, before it officially became Red Top in November 1989.
“Mom and Dad have been each other’s backbones in the business,” said Anawak-Gamble, who started working the till at the store at age 12.
“Their love, dedication, sweat, blood, tears – and a few swear words – have brought them this far with their business. They started with only what they had in their back pockets, and their three children gave them the motivation to keep it going this long.”
Anawak-Gamble had originally planned to take over the store with her brother D.J. and allow her parents to retire to their farm in southern Manitoba, but the tragic loss of D.J. in 2010 changed those plans.
Her father has retired, but her mother has joined forces with Anawak-Gamble to keep Red Top running since.
There are many rewarding parts of running a small family business servicing locals’ needs, wants and desires, she said. That includes the greetings, the daily visitors and the new faces, the communication with suppliers in the south and the strangers who turn into family.
“It’s always a pleasure to unlock those doors and turn on those open signs,” said Anawak-Gamble.
The challenges include getting help with funding and grants that other companies seem to have an easier time acquiring, she added.
“But my parents taught me not to throw in the towel,” said Anawak-Gamble.
She’s hopeful that 2023 will bring the assistance she needs to help her family-run business.
As a female entrepreneur, Anawak-Gamble gives a message of hope and perseverance to younger people hoping to follow in similar footsteps.
“Anything you put your mind and heart into, you can achieve,” she said. “Even with the naysayers, keep that chin up. We want to keep those ancestors proud.”
She advises new and would-be entrepreneurs to take it one day, one step and one moment at a time if they have to.
“You always have someone somewhere, either older or younger, looking up at you,” she said. “Follow your dreams, your ambitions, but most of all, your heart. Plans can change in an instant, so cherish the moments, the people and the family and friends beside you.”
Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kivalliq News