Kristina, left, and Martin Fujita in their Yellowknife office in the CloudWorks building. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio
What started with a nine-dollar jar of pickles has turned into the opening of a delivery service from Alberta to Yellowknife.
Kristina and Martin Fujita, together for eight years, spent their working lives in the oil and gas industry.
While in the remote, northern communities of BC, Alberta, and Yukon, they couldn’t believe the cost of basic goods.
“As you get to know people and you hear their frustrations,” said Kristina, “your business mind goes, ‘Can’t there be a better way?’
“So we always laugh that the idea came out of a nine-dollar jar of pickles. Because I love pickles, quite frankly, and we don’t think anyone should pay nine dollars for pickles.”
When Martin got tired of driving loads of dangerous goods along the highway, the couple decided to switch gears. Dubbed GP2U, their new delivery service runs from Grande Prairie north to communities along the highway to Yellowknife, including a stop in Hay River.
GP2U charges a 15 percent service fee based on the goods purchased, as well as a cost by weight to cover delivery. Even with these two costs, Kristina estimates customers can save up to 50 percent on some goods.
The Fujitas plan to drive up to Yellowknife twice a month, and are also offering to ship goods with Canada Post and Grimshaw.
“Our whole idea is not to squash any local business,” Kristina said. Rather, the Fujitas say they want to fill the gaps that exist in Yellowknife’s retail market – non-perishable Costco items as well as art and home renovation supplies not carried by local outlets.
Kristina says she has heard from local artists that art supplies are a huge need. She plans to hold a pop-up sale of craft supplies later this summer.
GP2U will not carry alcohol but, when asked about KFC deliveries, the answer is… possibly.
“In the winter we could because it could be frozen,” Kristina said.
“How many buckets are we talking? I could get some buckets up here. Of course,” Martin added.
What do local businesses think?
Several local business owners contacted by Cabin Radio said, by and large, they were not worried about the opening of the new delivery service.
The owner of Yellowknife’s Home Hardware, Chuck Corothers, said bigger hardware or office supply stores are able to sell their products for the same price at any outlet in the country – as they buy in large volumes and have a cross-country distribution system.
Sandra Stirling, at Overlander Sports, said a service like this wouldn’t likely affect her own. Sporting goods stores have to sell their items at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, she said.
“We don’t add anything extra on, even though it costs us a significant amount of money to bring product in here, for shipping,” said Stirling.
Corothers said local businesses invest significantly in the local economy and without supporting them, a town eventually loses infrastructure.
“You really need to think about [ordering online, more generally] because, if the support goes away from the community, so does the infrastructure,” he said.
“You end up in a situation where the retail outlet selling clothing closes – and it could be a place that sells crafts and quilting items, they close down.”
Jeannie Rocher, co-owner of Quality Furniture together with her family, agrees local prices are competitive and support for local business is crucial.
“I haven’t heard about them,” said Rocher, asked about GP2U’s business plan.
“They may be a wonderful company and they will hopefully support some of the local events because it’s key.”