Big turnout in Iqaluit for country food store sale

Iqaluit's only permanent country food store held a remarkable sale Monday. The store's fate is now uncertain as its owner, Jim Currie, recently passed away.

Fate of store unknown after owner passed away

A long line of people formed at the store before it even opened Monday morning. (CBC)

Iqaluit's only permanent country food store held a remarkable sale today.

Iqaluit Enterprises owner Jim Currie passed away recently. His store, Iqaluit Enterprises, well-known for smoked and fresh Arctic char.

Today, Currie’s last batch went on sale to the public and there was a long line before the store even opened.

"The store has been a good provider for a lot of people including myself. I'm not a very good hunter, so I relied on the store for my country food, so that part I hope will continue," said Paul Okalik, an Iqaluit resident and former premier of the territory.

Brian Twerdin, from the Grind and Brew coffee shop, said he’ll miss the char.

"For myself, at the Grind and Brew, we make char bagels so it's kind of good to get a chance to get some char so we can continue doing that," he said.

Currie passed away on May 19 from an apparent heart attack. Many shared their warm memories of Currie at the sale Monday.

"First reaction was shock, sad. He's my neighbour and he was a very sweet man. And he heard that it was my birthday on CBC and he gave me pitsi [dried fish]," said Iqaluit resident Bernice Kootoo.

Beata Hejnowicz, another Iqaluit resident, said she learned a lot about fish from Currie, and she said she can’t imagine Iqaluit without him.

"He was a really nice man and I always learned a lot from him when it came to fish so yeah I'm still in shock, I can’t imagine Iqaluit without him," she said.

Future of the store unknown

Willie Hyndman runs the monthly country food markets in Iqaluit. He said even though Iqaluit Enterprises is technically a competitor, he said Jim Currie was always supportive of the markets.

"It's a huge hole in the community. Jim was just having a store that was open every day, his smoked fish was world class, he cared about the country food, and he had a network of hunters that he supported and it was a really important institution here in Iqaluit, so it’s a sad day," said Hyndman.

Now, people in town are wondering what will happen to Iqaluit Enterprises and whether or not Iqaluit will continue to have a regular retail outlet to buy country food.

"It's very early, but I'd be happy to talk to the family, or I have been talking a little bit to the family, and I know they want to see the Iqaluit Enterprises continue," said Hyndman.

Jim Currie’s family said right now, the store’s future is uncertain. They have the ability to process and package fish and run the store, but they said they are keeping their options open.