Eskimo Point Lumber Supply: Partnering with the Community

As the small settlement of Eskimo Point in Canada’s Kivallig region has grown and prospered, so has Eskimo Point Lumber Supply (EPLS). The area was renamed Arviat in 1989, with the total population growing from approximately 600 residents in 1970 to today’s average of 3,000. Catering to this growing population, EPLS offers a wide range of goods and services as a retailer and distributor. The company supplies it all, including grocery items, building supplies, fuel and even hotel accommodations.

“We’ve partnered with the community, filling its needs over the years,” shares Ryan St. John, vice president of EPLS. “As it grew, we grew and have since expanded our operations beyond the Hudson Bay coast to Winnipeg and Rankin.”

EPLS prides itself in remaining family owned and operated since its founding in 1978. The company continues to uphold the values of honesty, hard work and a commitment to the community today. “We started as a small sole proprietorship,” recalls St. John. “Although we’ve had great success, we remain rooted in the Inuit heritage. We have a deep connection to this community.”

Northern Networks Ltd. (NNL), a subsidiary company of EPLS, was established in 1993. NNL is now a majority Inuit-owned corporation that specialized in the tendering process and works with various corporations through the north. Through expediting, camp setup and cleanup, fuel supply, fuel caching, mining and exploration support, equipment rentals, excavating and labor contracting, NNL provides a host of other related operations.

“Our main EPLS distribution center is in Winnipeg,” details St. John. “We service the government of Nunavut and supply all over the arctic. Whoever needs freight; we can supply and ship it.”

During 35 years of arctic experience, EPLS and NNL have loyally served the community by building roads, water reservoirs, housing pads, docking facilities, sewage lagoons and airport runway resurfacing. Today, the company operates from three major locations: in its home of Arviat, as well as sites in Winnipeg and Rankin.

“We’re working on our third location in Rankin,” explains St. John. “We’re heading there because the mining activity is a gateway to the north. The market is picking up and we’re making sure we position ourselves.

Supplying and Supporting Arviat

The number of ways in which EPLS supports the area is countless. EPLS has a 5,000-square-foot retail store in the west end of Arviat, stocking a fresh supply of grocery items, maps, charts, furs, sewing materials, office supplies, tires, clothing, snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) parts, camping, fishing, trapping and hunting gear.

The retailer’s convenience store is a great place to stop by downtown for everything from frozen foods to games, ice cream to pizza and the ever-popular poutine. “We have a full-scale retail stores,” shares St. John. “Everything from confectionary goods to plumbing supplies; we’ve got basically everything that the community requires.”

EPLS also has a 4,000-square-foot hardware warehouse that carries various items, such as plumbing, heating and electrical materials, flooring paint, siding, doors, windows, molding, toilets and much more. The company’s wood shed adds an additional 2,400 square feet to the operation, stocking a variety of plywood, beams, planks and dimensional wood.

Aside from the retail aspect, EPLS offers rentals and heavy equipment contracting, including: dozers, loaders, an excavator, dump trucks, backhoes, vehicle rentals and freight trucks. The company even has drivers to help customers transport or operate any piece of equipment.

So far, EPLS is capable of supplying and driving any operation. As if that weren’t enough, the company also provides accommodations. The Katimavik Suites is located in Arviat, which includes beachfront property and offers comfortable, private space. The suites are equipped with kitchenettes, bathrooms, satellite T.V., Internet and group meeting rooms.

“We are currently expanding into Rankin Inlet with a 28-room hotel, including class suites and private rooms with a conference room,” says St. John. “The facility is scheduled to open in March 2013.”

A Wide Range of Service

Additionally, EPLS carries and distributes drummed-fuel products, as required to the aviation industry, as well as the exploration community. The company owns a private tank farm with a 450,000-litre capacity for bulk P-50 fuel.

EPLS handles the freight coming in and out of Arviat, with local crews experienced with loading, unloading and efficient turnaround for scheduled and freighter aircraft. The company also assists exploration, mining and government operations with mechanical assistance, camp replenishing and lodging.

“We’ve provided many services over the years,” recalls St. John. “We built both water reservoirs the community relies on. Recently, we’ve done airport resurfacing jobs, crushing over 2 million cubic metres of gravel.” EPLS works closely with airport and helicopter operations throughout the area.

The company’s success hasn’t come without certain costs and challenges. The harsh arctic environment makes winter operations a daily battle. “Working in the North is always a challenge,” admits St. John. “It’s all we know, though. Time can be hard, especially when you’re so invested in the area, your family and whole life is here.” The company has grown alongside the community, making its livelihood through this strong partnership. Eskimo Point Lumber Supply continues to provide for the region in which it is deeply rooted.