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Northern Alberta hamlet happy with first taste of lower-priced groceries

The store, whose name means in Dene, "the land of the willow," cost the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation about $7 million to build. About 15 people work there.

New Indigenous-owned grocery store has Fort Chipewyan feeling 'very, very satisfied'

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation's K'ai Tailé Market in Fort Chipewyan opened Wednesday, Aug. 1. (Mike Merc/ Submitted)

A new grocery store promising to bring affordable food to Fort Chipewyan has opened its doors in the community.

The K'ai Tailé Market, owned by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, had a soft opening on Wednesday, said band councillor Michelle Voyageur.

The store — its name in Dene ​means "people of the land of the willow" — cost the ACFN about $7 million to build and employs about 15 local workers.

Voyageur said the store is already living up to its goal of providing fresh produce, meat and staples to the community of Fort Chipewyan.

"We want our community members to be able to access healthy foods at a low price," Voyageur said.

Fort Chipewyan is one of the province's oldest communities but it's only accessible by road in the winter months. The rest of the year, goods need to be flown in.

There's a Northern store owned by the North West Company but residents have complained for years about high prices. Many resort to shopping 280 kilometres away in Fort McMurray, then pack their grocery bags in their luggage when they fly back.

Voyageur said that in these first few days of the new store's opening, people are already seeing savings.

"People have been saying our prices are comparable to Fort McMurray," Voyageur said.

Fort Chipewyan's new Indigenous-owned grocery store is open for business. (Michelle Voyageur/ Submitted)

For example, on Friday the grocery offered three rolls of ground beef for $10 which is similar to prices in Fort McMurray, Voyageur said. Also, four litres of milk was $6.89 instead of almost $15 at the other store in town.

The two-level grocery store features a butcher, a baker and fresh produce. Shoppers in big cities may take these things for granted, but they are a luxury in Fort Chipewyan.

Paul Tuccaro, who owns and runs Fort Chipewyan's taxi service, said he's been busy taking passengers to the new grocery over the last three days.

Tuccaro said residents hope the new selection and low prices are here to stay.

"You can go to the Northern Store with $100 and you buy one bag of groceries," Tuccaro said, "and you go to the new store and you bring three bags with that price. 

"It's an excellent store and I think Fort Chipewyan as a whole is very, very satisfied."

Connect with David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.

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