Dingeman Van Bochove is looking to keep Yellowknife heritage alive with his recent purchase of the former Yellowknife Radio building, neighbour to the historic Gold Range.
The building, which stands at 5012-5014 50th St., dates back to 1952. Harold Glick had been operating his Radio and Record Shop out of a fourteen-foot-by-sixteen-foot shack and obtained permission to erect a new building to expand his business.
Glick sold radios, televisions, furniture and jewelry at the downtown shop until 1968 when he took what became known as Radio Limited to the 50-50 Mini Mall.
Since then the lot has held a number of commercial tenants, often overlapping in their occupancy. Through the decades, the building has housed: Lizel Fabrics, Modern Paint and Flooring Limited, Munchkins clothing store, the Gold Range Arcade, Flowers by Candlelight, the Yellowknife Pawnshop, For Men Only clothing store and the most recent tenant, Smart Bee Convenience Store and Gifts.
Van Bochove, who takes over the building from the convenience store, said he hopes to restore the old storefront to its former glory. He envisions a restaurant with props that pay homage to the town’s mining history.
With zoning bylaws, however, it’s not yet clear whether or not Van Bochove’s vision will be possible. “Worst case,” he said, “it will be a retail space.”
Van Bochove is the owner of Summit Roofing Yellowknife. He said that he took on the project as a way of keeping his crew busy through the winter and of giving back to the city of Yellowknife.
He declined to disclose how much he paid for the property, though the building was listed for $299,000 last January, a fraction of the original $459,000 price tag.
While Van Bochove said he and his crew knew what they were taking on, the building is in rough shape. He said he is committed to “saving as much as I can of the building,” but that “the initial quality is so poor. It’s really hard to save that.”
In the coming weeks Van Bochove said he would have a better idea of what the space will become and how much will be restored.
“It is great that there is somebody in Yellowknife willing to invest in fixing up old buildings, especially in the downtown core which is slowly becoming nothing but vacant parking lot,” Ryan Silke, Yellowknife historian, said.
Silke explained that Glick, on top of selling and repairing radios, electronics and later home appliances, purchased the first television set in Yellowknife in 1954 – “even though there was practically no reception,” Silke said.
Glick was a Yellowknife town council member for a number of years in the ’60s. He sponsored the Yellowknife Radio women’s softball team and was involved in the start of the volunteer run CFYK radio station until the CBC took it over in 1958.
Yellowknife Radio Ltd was a long-time business, operating from 1948 to 1986 until the Glicks sold to Roy Williams. In 1994 the shop changed its name to Radio Shack, and is now known as Roy’s Audio Video Unlimited.
“In a way, the business is still around today even though it has changed owners, names, and services,” Silke said. “The building represents not just a long-serving local business, but an important Yellowknife family.”
“I hope they can bring some life back to that street,” he said.
Van Bochove hopes that “if this renovation works out well” someone might be interested in buying the Gold Range next door. He said he was looking into buying it himself but that the 1.5 million dollar price tag is “ridiculous.
“It would be great if we could save the building so that in 100 years, people could still see how the downtown core was developed,” Van Bochove said.
He said he “doesn’t know how long the Gold Range will still be here” but that he believes revamping the former Radio Ltd. building “could uplift the whole area.”