After 18 years, Yellowknife's Just Furs shuts its doors, moves online

·3 min read
Kristine Bourque stands in her store Just Furs. She plans on closing the store and moving online by the end of April. (Alice Twa/CBC - image credit)
Kristine Bourque stands in her store Just Furs. She plans on closing the store and moving online by the end of April. (Alice Twa/CBC - image credit)

After 18 years as a staple store in Yellowknife's Old Town, Just Furs will follow Northern Images and move online by the end of April.

Owner Kristine Bourque says the decision was a hard one, but it was something she's considered for a while.

"I've had a couple close friends that work for me and that was very helpful," she said.

"But then the last couple of years I've had to work on my own, six days a week and I just thought, I'm getting older and I want to retire or semi-retire and I don't want to be in the shop every day."

After the pandemic caused many businesses to take a pause in March of last year, Bourque ended up having to delay reopening Just Furs until November.

She said during the few months she was open, locals were very supportive and helped keep sales steady.

All COVID-19 really impacted was her decision on when she wanted to close.

"I've been thinking about it for a while so I just made the decision," Bourque said. "I'm going to shut down. This will be my last season in the shop."

Bourque she'll miss connecting with customers and artists in person each day.

"I've been here for so long that I know that I'm going to miss seeing some of the ladies that come in and the people that come back," she said. "It's always been positive, but I just feel that this is my time to change things up."

To close up the store and sell inventory, Bourque is planning a big sale, with some items going for 25 per cent off. She hopes to wrap up her in person business by the end of April and if she manages to sell all the inventory before the end of the month, then it will be an early close.

A Northern experience

A photo of the Down To Earth Gallery, owned by Rosalind Mercredi. She along with Lisa Seagrave, owner of the gallery of the Midnight Sun, are determined to keep their stores open for locals and tourists.
A photo of the Down To Earth Gallery, owned by Rosalind Mercredi. She along with Lisa Seagrave, owner of the gallery of the Midnight Sun, are determined to keep their stores open for locals and tourists.(Charlotte Overvold)

While Just Furs and Northern Images have both decided to close their store fronts and move online, other galleries are determined to stay in person.

Lisa Seagrave, owner of Gallery of the Midnight Sun, said they have been working on expanding to an online store, but she is trying everything to avoid moving entirely online.

"We reduced our hours, I've reduced my staff, but we have managed to keep my core full-time staffers employed, fortunately," Seagrave said. "We're just doing whatever we can to mitigate expenses and get through the next couple of months."

While the gallery did take a brief pause in April and May, they are determined to keep the store open for tourists and locals to visit.

"To me we're here to provide a Northern experience, a physical experience, for customers."

'We like showcasing Northern art'

Rosalind Mercredi, owner of Down to Earth Gallery, agrees with Seagraves.

"We like the connection with people and the people connecting with us and that's in person. Maybe you talk to people and talk about Northern artists. I think that's important to us right now still," Mecredi said. "That's still our major focus."

She said the gallery displays art from about 130 Northern artists and moving that entirely online would just be too much effort.

"If that was my only option, I would probably just close up."

Instead, Mercredi has started to experiment using the internet on a smaller scale like posting more photos on social media or hosting virtual art shows.

But even then, she is trying her best to find a way to do these things in person again even during the pandemic, like hosting their annual Anonymous Art Show by appointment only.

"We like being a gallery in Yellowknife and we like local people coming in, we like showcasing Northern art," Mecredi said, adding for now, "I wouldn't exclusively go online."