Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., student-run popup coffee shop a hit

It's not Starbucks, but for Ulukhaktok, it's close enough.

What started three years ago as a simple fundraiser has turned into a local institution

Residents of Uluhaktok persue the goods at Helen Kalvak Elihakvik School. (Submitted)

It's not Starbucks, but for Ulukhaktok, it's close enough.

Students at Helen KalvakElihakvik School in this N.W.T. hamlet of 475 people hold a coffee shop every two weeks.

While it started three years ago as a simple fundraiser for the school's grad party, teacher Kathy Tollenaar said the coffee shop, which runs every second Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., has grown from coffee and baked goods to include lunches and take-out.

In the process, Tollenaar said students learn about taking orders, making change, managing time, multitasking and working under pressure.

"The students are really enthused about being involved with it," she said. "I never have to look around for volunteers."

A family enjoys a meal at Uluhaktok's student-run coffee shop. (Submitted)
The coffee shop has become so popular that there's even a rush when it opens for business. Tollenaar said students were initially rattled by the lineups, but gradually learned to take things one customer at a time.

"It does get quite busy especially right at the beginning," she said. "I think some people are worried about us running out of our favourite items, so sometimes we get quite slammed at the beginning."

Caffeine fix and chill

Grade 10 student Chloe Kaniyak said being a barista is not necessarily a career goal, but the coffee shop does offer valuable work experience.

"I get to develop my people skills which I never really had," she said. "There are a lot of people, but I can get through it with help. It teaches me how to multi-task and handle pressure."

Organizers aim for a classic coffeehouse atmosphere, complete with mood lighting, acoustic guitars and a relaxed pace. "It's neat to see, because people are coming as families," Tollenaar said.

Grade 12 student Natalia Westwood said there's nowhere else in town where people can get a coffee and just unwind.

"I like that I can make someone happy just by making them a drink or making them food," she said.


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