the future of whitehorse

April 4, 2007

I’ve talked about this before, but in light of a few (major?) changes happening in the downtown core of Whitehorse, I thought it would be worthwhile to bring it up again.

It’s been almost like a domino effect in this city, businesses changing hands, others shutting down completely. I’m sure we could pinpoint these changes sometime in the early 90s when Tim Horton’s and Pizza Hut set up shop 2nd Ave further north away from Main St. and the other little restaurants in that area. The two businesses had incredible drawing power pulling people in that direction, which saw TacoTime (now Domino’s), A&W, and KFC (it shifting from a location across from YTG) all making their homes beside each other. Then came Boston Pizza, Rogers, the entire Chilkoot complex headed by Walmart, and then the new goliath Superstore. The magnet of that area (which used to be a swamp/dump ten years ago) still continues with Canadian Tire, Mark’s Workwear World, car dealerships, and probably in the next year or two, a Shopper’s Drugmart (if not sooner).

Now, people may curse and moan about those businesses having all set up shop here in this city, but last time I looked, those parking lots are continuously full throughout the day and evening. There are other options that exist in the city, but people still go to the brands they know and trust. Even though other video rental stores are in the city, or previously existed in the past, people will go to Rogers because of the one feature they can offer their customers- no late fees. This could be downside to the other businesses in Whitehorse, but it’s certainly a positive thing for the movie culture of the city. I usually prefer not to spend money renting movies, so having the option of borrowing a rental from someone else that tells me to, “See this movie!” for free is a hard offer to turn down.

One of the causes of these shifts are the demands of the youth of the city, but also the lack of passion in current business owners to keep moving forward. Several of the owners are getting tired of the challenges of recruiting employees, retaining them, and keeping their businesses running as smoothly as possible. It’s a stressful job for them. And they have the luxury of comparing how their businesses operate now compared to five, ten, fifteen years before. Frankly, they’re tired of the shit they’re having to put up with.

I know the purchase of the Gold Rush Inn was under different circumstances, but I can imagine that the owners of other businesses are getting drained from trying to compete while having these other issues on their shoulders. There’s a lot of family-owned businesses operating in this city, and I’m sure many of them would be willing to part with their businesses for the right price. So, yes, some of the old time owners are choosing to sell their businesses, but the voids they’re leaving in their wakes are being filled up.

Let’s take Coasters as an example. Recently relocated from its former home at the Town & Mountain Hotel (now re-named back to Shenanigan’s) to the 202 Hotel, we have a young owner and management staff who are eager to turn that bar around and create some viable for this city. Maybe it won’t be the same as the Taku/Discovery Bar, or be the small pub of Joe’s Freepour, but it could be the next Taku for a new generation (of alcoholics). I know the new manager of Coasters is excited about the move and I know one of their partners is excited about the whole movement downtown right now. With the Hougen’s Group taking over the rest of their block, it’s taking the path of revitalizing and cleaning up Main St.

People have to understand that the culture of Whitehorse is shifting from the life of transient people escaping the east coast/big cities, to the Y-generation of students who are returning to Whitehorse and seeing the potential of the city. We don’t want Whitehorse turning into another Whistler, nor will it ever be with our freezing cold winters, but we don’t want it to be a sleepy town either. There’s a lot of life to be found in this city, and we want to take a hold of it and develop it for the greater good. It’s not a question of making money from these ventures, but expanding the appearance of the town. Right now, walking down Main St., you come across the loiterers and the drunks coming out of the bars. That should be cleaned up so the people who come up here will want to return to this city, if not move here.

One of the producers for TSN said it best before he left this city. He said that if he was in his early twenties, he’d move up to this city. There’s a lot for people of that generation to be doing up here. And people are doing those things up here. If you don’t like the changes in this city, I’d suggest moving up to Dawson City, where you can still find your sleepy town and bars. I’m liking the feel for Whitehorse with its influx of new and youthful people. A new group of them will be arriving in the summertime, and I’m hoping they will love the energy to be found in this city.

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3 Responses to “the future of whitehorse”

  1. Tammy Says:

    I heard Starubcks bought The Main Man site! Ugh, a Starbucks on Main Street…. simply awful.

  2. Jenny! Says:

    Apparently not so, hence the “for lease” sign in the window. How is Starbucks, or any other business in town, supposed to secure a second location, in which to create a duplicate business, if staffing the first store is impossible? From the business end, when a piece of property is secured for potential growth of a company, it will be in the local paper with an “intent to lease/purchase” form, something for the avid “Starbuckian” to watch for.

    I personally love the product coming out of Starbucks but I do agree with you, Tammy. The Main Man would have been an inappropriate place to set up shop.

    I believe in supporting local “mom & pop” shops and a Starbucks on Main Street would surely put Zola’s out of business. However, it seems, as of late, both the service and product has been a little lacking at Zola’s. I wanted a white mocha the other day and it was a fight to even get someone to come to the register, and then good luck trying to get someone to make my drink. I wasn’t impressed. If I am paying 6 bucks for a specialty drink I want it hot and within a reasonable time frame, but most importantly, I want a drink that tastes good. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for our local coffee houses. The growth of this city excites me.

  3. Jenny! Says:

    It is official….Starbucks just signed a 20 year lease contract with Glennis. They are hoping to be open by May of ’08. A buddy of mine still works there, regretfully, and says they are scrambling to fill the staff list. Any one know of 24 people who would like to sell their souls to the Starbucks corporation?


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