Much like the boom and bust of the mining sector, Jake Olson, owner of Yk Gold and Silver, is looking optimistically at the continued rebound of his mineral manufacturing business.
The lifelong Yellowknifer has been trying to keep the history of the city’s gold and mining heritage alive through his souvenir product line as well as some sales of gold, silver and other minerals found in the North.
Originally born out of his passion for collecting and understanding the minerals behind money, Olson went full-time with the business in 2019 with the aim to meet a growing tourism market in the city.
But then COVID-19 happened.
“Originally my manufacturing was fully reliant on tourism and then obviously when COVID happened tourism went away,” he explained in an interview July 13.
“I had to basically increase the gold and silver side of the business. That kind of just blossomed into being able to provide a consistent supply of invest-able grade gold and silver, like gold bars and coins and other items that are stamped from the Royal Canadian Mint as an investment commodity.”
Olson showed some impressive silver bars and gold pieces that people can buy as investments with the intent of them increasing in value.
But making products that celebrate the NWT’s unique mineral culture for the general public is his biggest passion.
As public health restrictions around the pandemic have begun to ease in recent months he said he is excited that he is able to transition back to manufacturing again.
“Right now, we’re starting to see things lighten up a bit, I’m able to go to the Yellowknife Farmers Market and tourism may start to come back in the winter,” he said. “It may not be what it was before, but now’s the time where I want to get back into creating some of the product stuff.” shopnwt
In June he released three-dimensional puzzles of the Con Mine and Giant Mine head frames, which he said was a new and challenging aspect to his product line.
“I actually started with a basic design for it but then I had to hire an architect to create the kind of puzzle (organization) to it,” he said. “It went through four or five different iterations because none of the pieces worked at the beginning.
“It was just a whole new dimension because not a lot of people have done three-dimensional puzzles and it’s fun though quite challenging.”
The puzzles should appeal to children and families and when completed, make for a unique desk decoration or conversation piece, he said.
Olson said he is increasingly getting deeper into lapidary and mineralogy to assist his selling of slabs of Northern minerals that people can purchase for different purposes – either for the aesthetics of the stone itself or to cut and make into jewelry or other artistic items.
Over the last year, he has found that international online sales have done well despite a slowed down economy.
Common interest has been found in the sales of 24 carat maple syrup and boxed slabs of Acasta Gniess – the NWT’s famous and world’s oldest piece of crust at more than four billion years old.
“Online sales have not been a significant portion of the business but it is a big part of what the business has been in the past year,” he said. “It is kind of like a slow climb where a lot more sales and a lot more business is being created not just for Yellowknife tourists but for a broader interest outside the tourism sector.
“We have a few products that are up on etsy or Amazon and we have had a couple of orders a day, which is a really cool feeling. We have sent them all the way to Egypt to Arizona to the Philippines.”
Olson said that his biggest takeaway from international sales have been that there is genuine interest all over the world of northern life.
“I think the Arctic and Yellowknife have a lot to represent and people are very interested in our lifestyle and the mystery of what the north is,” he said.
On July 13, Olson was preparing for his fourth stint of his first year as a vendor at the Yellowknife Farmers Market. He said the market has allowed him to interact with people from a gold-rush era prospector’s tent, promote his products and gain feedback from Yellowknifers on where to direct his business next.
Yk Gold and Silver’s main office can be found at 4912 49 street in a side office from the Blunt Hairdresser. It’s one of many participating in the NWT Chamber of Commerce’s #shopNWT campaign to connect shoppers with local businesses.
Spend a minimum of $500 to be entered to win the grand prize: The Ultimate Staycation package from The Explorer Hotel, or one of six $1,000 gift certificates to be spent at a #shopNWT-participating business. For a full list of participating businesses across the territory, visit buynorth.nnsl.com/shopnwt.
Collect one point for every dollar spent at a participating NWT business until July 18. Prize draws are set for July 23 and will be announced on BuyNorth’s Facebook page.
Receipts from participating businesses from June 14 will be accepted. Go to buynorth.nnsl.com/shopnwt, call 867-444-7700 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.