North

Enterprise, N.W.T.'s only gas bar shuts its doors

Now, the nearest gas station for travellers heading north on Highway 1 towards Yellowknife is about 140 kilometres away at the Big River Service Centre in Fort Providence. Heading south towards the Alberta border, it is about 100 kilometres away at Indian Cabins, Alta.

'People are getting stranded with no gas and they are not always able to get gas easily,' says SAO

When there is no gas available at the gas station, some people drive to the hamlet office for help. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

A struggling small business owner in Enterprise, N.W.T., has apparently thrown in the towel.

Lisa Thurber-Tsetso, the owner of the roadside gas bar and motel Lisa's Place, has closed her doors and gas pumps after months of intermittent service.

"No gas" signs were on three of the six pumps as of Monday, the lights were out and the front door was secured with a small padlock.

Lisa Thurber-Tsetso said problems she faced include the cost of trucked water, increase in minimum wage and debt to the territorial government. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Thurber-Tsetso could not immediately be reached for comment, either in person in Enterprise, by phone or by email.

But six months ago she told the CBC she was struggling to make payments on the remote gas station and hotel she bought in 2014.

It wasn't any one thing, she said, but a series of problems. She struggled with the amount and cost of trucked water, an increase in minimum wage, no longer being able to sell fireworks or fishing licences and the amount she owed to the territorial government's Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Business Development and Investment Corporation.

Back then, she talked about putting the business up for sale.

"I'm on the fence about what to do," she said at the time. "I need to cut down my hours and I hope everybody's forgiving about that."

Thurber-Tsetso said when she took over the business her dream was to re-open the onsite restaurant, but instead she said the majority of her business was selling gas, which had failed to provide her with the profits or career satisfaction she hoped for.

What does 'no gas' mean?

In the one hour CBC was on site on Monday, two vehicles pulled up thinking Lisa's was open.

Visibly surprised but not wanting to comment, they drove to the hamlet office. With no school, no RCMP detachment and no health centre, the hamlet office is where some drivers end up, often desperate for a restroom and a fill up.

Six months ago, owner Lisa Thurber-Tsetso said she was struggling to make payments on the remote gas station. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

"It is a concern because people are getting stranded with no gas and they are not always able to get gas easily," said Tammy Neal, the community's senior administrative officer.

Neal said she saw an average of five drivers a week looking for help during office hours in January, but that number may be higher given not everyone stops at the office.

Neal said the hamlet is not in the business of storing gas, but if people are on empty, she said she will try and help out.

"[There's] nothing really I can do unless a resident informs us they might have extra gas, and that does happen at times. If someone is really stuck we might call around," Neal said.

With Lisa's Place closed, the nearest gas station for travellers heading north on Highway 1 towards Yellowknife is about 140 kilometres away at the Big River Service Centre in Fort Providence. Heading south towards the Alberta border, it is about 100 kilometres away at Indian Cabins, Alta.

With the gas station in Enterprise now closed, there's now a stretch of 240 kilometres on Highway 1 without a gas station, though drivers could detour to the South Slave communities of Fort Resolution, Kakisa, and Hay River. (CBC)

However, several South Slave communities located off the highway have gas stations, including Hay River, Fort Resolution and Kakisa. 

Local emergency officials say drivers need to be diligent when travelling between High Level and any northern community.

"It's always good to have spare fuel on board, plus any other emergency equipment such as a tow rope, booster cables, first-aid kit, warm clothes and blankets," said Ross Potter, the director of protective services for the Town of Hay River.

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