A Yellowknife home decor store is to close, 18 months after finishing second in the Win Your Space business contest, because it can’t find a suitable space.
In October 2018, Kerri Nolting opened The Farmhouse in the YK Centre mall after her Win Your Space success resulted in a $5,000 credit toward the lease. (Win Your Space, run by the City of Yellowknife and the local chamber of commerce, is designed to help new businesses set up in the city.)
An evolution of her existing Kerri’s Kreations business, The Farmhouse sold a range of home decor like signs, glassware, vintage items, clocks, and lamps.
However, this week, Nolting announced The Farmhouse will close on March 23. Items will be steeply discounted in the three weeks to come, she said, as everything must go.
“I have so much else going on and the space that I’m in was just not working for me,” Nolting told Cabin Radio on Tuesday.
While grateful for the initial credit that helped her lease the small space, Nolting said its size meant she could not work on products during the day, leading to long evenings fulfilling orders – followed by full days back at the store.
“I just need a bigger space: a sink, a place for a workbench, and street access,” said Nolting, whose current location is downstairs in the mall’s basement area, opposite Gourmet Cup.
“I’d love to have a space I could actually work in, where I could do a couple of signs for you when I’m at the store,” she continued. “Right now, I’m taking those orders, going home, doing them all night, then coming back to the store during the day.”
Yellowknife’s economic environment has been challenging for retailers in recent years. Last year, the owner of a downtown flower shop said she was on the verge of closure before a new business plan helped keep the store going.
However, Nolting said her problem was the opposite: her business was a success, outgrowing its current space – and then finding nowhere to go.
“I spent the past year trying to look for a space and it’s just not happening. I talked to everybody I know,” she said.
“It is sad that a business like me can’t find a spot. I have to be street-level, downtown.
“But it’s not totally sad. I’m going to concentrate on the workshops and the custom orders. That part of the business is still up and running.”
‘Why is it still so difficult?’
The Farmhouse is not the only store to have struggled to find an appropriate space in Yellowknife.
The Fat Fox Café, forced to move when its former building became unusable, is based in the city’s curling club as no suitable downtown space has become available.
Last year, Fat Fox co-owner Jeremy Flatt said the company’s situation was “weird” as plenty of vacant units exist in downtown Yellowknife, yet none would work for a business of their size.
“The space that is available is pretty expensive,” he said at the time. “You get to thinking about this stuff, the bigger picture, and… why? If we have so much vacant space, why is it still so difficult and so expensive to rent?”
A longstanding issue is the ownership of much downtown Yellowknife commercial space by large firms based in the south. Critics say those corporations lack motivation to lower rents and attract more business.
In recent weeks, one such company – Northview – has been the subject of a proposed buyout by two other southern property investment firms.
That proposed deal has raised further concern. On Monday, Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson urged the prospective new owners to sell off some downtown property and “allow local ownership in a city which is desperately in need of competition and local developers.”
In the meantime, asked if she would reconsider closing The Farmhouse if a space could yet be found, Nolting said on Tuesday: “Call me. Yes! Yes, yes, yes. Call me. I definitely would be interested.
“But I have searched. I have talked to everybody I know, and it’s not happening.”