April 5, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 14

Haines Junction residents, travelers left without grocery store

Stores in Haines could now advertise they offer Interior-bound motorists the last groceries for 400 miles.

Madley’s, the sole grocery store in Haines Junction, Y.T., closed in September, leaving about 800 village residents with little alternative but to drive two hours east to Whitehorse for groceries.

“People are driving to Whitehorse more and shopping for other people – to a point. If you start advertising that you’re going, pretty soon you’re carrying around 12 people’s lists,” said resident and village councilman Mike Crawshay.

Residents are investigating forming a co-op and seeking investors to possibly purchase Madley’s, which had been in business 25 years.

Owner Terry Madley testified in a court foreclosure hearing last fall that the “economy changed,” according to the Whitehorse Star.

Madley said the store would normally have $30,000 in profits at the end of the summer, which was enough to keep it running during the slower winter season. He said the store has seen a lot more competition in recent years, including from the major supermarkets in Whitehorse.

“I thought the town would grow more,” Madley said.

Mortgage holder Dana Naye Ventures told the court last fall that Madley’s owes nearly $640,000 in mortgage payments and other loans, which have not been paid since February 2011, the Star reported.

Councilman Crawshay, a resident who has operated a garage there since 1989, said he expected a store would open, though it may not offer the variety of goods that Madley’s sold, like hardware, camping gear and garden items.

“There will be a store in Haines Junction, but it may be more along the lines of a 7-11,” he said.

With 800 people in town and another 200 in the surrounding area, there’s a demand for a store there, Crawshay said. Most residents stocked up on bulk items on trips to Whitehorse, but regularly shopped at Madley’s, he said.

“It’s a viable business,” Crawshay said, adding that the village population is growing, though slowly.

A village gas station there has stocked some basic goods, and Crawshay said he expected some version of a store would be open by summer.

“The town certainly needs a store. Not having one certainly subtracts from the desirability of the town for people moving here, and for tourists. You can’t encourage people to stay around if they can’t buy food here,” Crawshay said. “It certainly needs to be done.”

The closure has been toughest on senior citizens who have difficulty making the 100-mile drive to Whitehorse. They’re relying on family, or on other, younger seniors to give them rides, Crawshay said.

Madley’s also made news in September when an RCMP officer was shot there following a break-in. Two people have been charged in connection with the case, according to the Star.