The owners of Bullock’s Bistro expect the first bottles of their mass-produced sauces to run off the line of their new production plant by September.

The spring and summer saw a flurry of building activity at their site in Kam Lake, where the Great Slave Bottling Company’s new facility is now “99-per-cent” finished, said owner Jo-Ann Martin.

“We’re finishing up the last parts of the mechanical and electrical work and the inspections should be done by the end of this week.”

The 305-square metre ground floor of the facility will eventually accommodate the bottling machinery, much of which is sitting on a ship in Vancouver harbour waiting to unload, said Jo-Ann Martin. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

Martin and her husband Mark Elson bought a plot of land in Kam Lake in December and construction of the facility started in May.

The popularity of their homemade herb and garlic salad dressing and teriyaki fish sauce has grown beyond Yellowknife and the borders of the NWT and spurred them to consider ramping up production.

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Shipping woes hold up bottling equipment

The total budget of the two-storey building is $800,000, with Legge’s Construction hired for the build. Bottling production will happen on the 305-square-metre ground floor. The 120 sq m second floor will house a washroom and office space.

Martin describes the project as like climbing a series of hills, where things will proceed smoothly but then level off to a period of waiting for the next stage.

In April, she estimated production could begin by August but delays in acquiring her bottling equipment have pushed back the timeline.

“We’re kind of in limbo with dates. Originally we had sourced our equipment from Ontario but the price went up by three times,” she said.

As an alternative, they ordered some equipment from China but the ship carrying it has been held up in Vancouver harbour since July 12. Wildfires in B.C. are compounding shipping backlogs and she isn’t sure when the ship will unload.

They ordered the rest of the equipment from Quebec, which has yet to arrive in Yellowknife.

In total, the bottling equipment budget comes to $250,000, Martin said.

And then once the machines arrive, they still have to go through inspections and trials.

“It has been a challenge. We’re optimally saying the end of September we’ll make the first bottle and full production in October. Fingers and toes crossed we get our equipment from Vancouver!”

Once the bottling gets going they hope to produce 1,800 bottles per day. Later on, their maximum production target is 10,000 bottles per day.

They plan to employ five staff to start off and eventually hire 15 workers.

While large-scale sales are still a few stages down the road, Martin said there is one potential client who owns 40 stores and wants to do a big promotion with Great Slave Bottling.

“That’ll be a big deal for us, but I can’t give the name.”

Other possible retail buyers in southern B.C, Alberta and in the Maritimes are interested and waiting for production to begin before they make an agreement.

Delays aside, Martin and Elson are grateful for the support they’ve received from customers and from the community and are looking towards the finish line of their project.

“It feels surreal. We’ve been looking forward to it for over a year now. Once the equipment lands in Yellowknife we’ll breathe a big sigh of relief.”

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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