Enterprise is about to reclaim its role as a place where travellers and hamlet residents can fill up their vehicles with gas and buy snacks for their journeys.
The newly-named Gateway Gas and Convenience plans to open this week.
The service location has previously operated under different owners, most recently as Lisa’s Place, before being put up for sale in mid-2019.
Meika McDonald, an owner/operator of the new business, sees opportunity at the location.
“I’m a Northerner and I drove by it all the time and I just thought it was a remarkable business, and been interested in it for a long time,” she said. “And it came up for sale. The rest is history.”
McDonald purchased the property in January 2020 with the intention of opening on April 1, 2020, until the arrival of Covid-19 in Canada and the restrictions on the NWT/Alberta border, just 80 km south of Enterprise.
“With our border and Covid, I had to make some tough decisions,” she said. “So I postponed it until this year. And now I’m just going to give it a whirl and see how it goes.”
In the interim, there were improvements made, including renovations to the building, upgraded washrooms, new lighting and refurbished pumps.
McDonald said she has many plans for the business, which includes a kitchen and a nearby nine-room hotel, formerly known as the Twin Falls Inn.
“I have taken a phased approach here,” she said. “So I’m doing my gas and convenience piece first, and then I’m going to approach the kitchen, and then I’m going to develop the hotel and get that up and running.”
In fact, McDonald also hopes to create a full-service campground at the location with maybe a dozen sites.
“There’s a lot of moving parts in this business,” she said.
Excited and optimistic
Despite the delay in opening the first piece of her development plans, McDonald is confidently looking to the future.
“I’m excited and I am optimistic, but I don’t come with a history of gas stations and convenience stores,” she said. “So for me I feel like I’m learning, which I think is great.”
McDonald, who is from Fort Smith, has a background as an entrepreneur, noting she has been in business since her early 20s.
“I feel like my entrepreneurial spirit allows me to have vision with things like this,” she said. “This is what I do for a living.”
McDonald said it has been challenging to find staff and she is also deciding whether to operate on a seasonal basis for just the warmer months.
“I’m going to run shorter hours, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for now, just in case I have to run it myself, which is fine,” she said. “And I have one gal who will work with me on a part-time basis.”
McDonald is basically dealing with the situation as she finds it.
“I’m just being open-minded and flexible, but it’s not taking away from my excitement,” she said. “I’m still excited to be here and open this little store and develop the properties.”
McDonald believes that consistency of service will be the key to success.