Success in Sandy Lake First Nation
When Adow-Gamick Enterprise opened in Sandy Lake First Nation in 1992, the people behind its start-up had no idea what a cornerstone of the community it would become. As of a matter of fact, they had no idea how to run a business.
Fast forward 28 years later and the business is thriving as it employs 22 people in a community of 3,000-plus, located about 225 km northeast of Red Lake in Northern Ontario.
“We had no business knowledge when we first started talking about opening a store,” said Lorraine Mamakeesic, who started the business with Bill Mamakeesic, Pauline Linklater, Randy Linklater, Walter Kakepetum, Raymond Kakepetum and Tommy Linklater nearly three decades ago. “It was mostly me, Bill, Randy and Pauline who ran the business with support from the other owners.”
Adow-Gamick (meaning "store" in Oji-Cree), which officially got its name “Adow-Gamick Enterprises” in 1994, initially sold meat and used furniture.
“In the summer of 1992, we started shipping in garage sale items for resale from Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Winnipeg, as people couldn’t afford brand-new items,” said Lorraine. “We were using one of our homes as a part-time store. People started to ask us to look for special items and then gradually we started shipping in dry good items from various discount stores and wholesalers on a cash and carry basis. By request from customers, we started to carry some grocery items, but mostly meat products were in demand.”
By 1994, the owners had purchased and renovated a larger building to accommodate their needs.
“We got a loan from NADF for grocery stock and to get into the Chester Fried Chicken program. We became a complete confectionery store, still leaving our old building for used furniture and as a storage warehouse,” said Lorraine.
Two years later, the owners needed to expand again as Adow-Gamick had transformed into a general store with the addition of clothing, hardware and video rentals to its growing list.
"We needed a bigger building,” said Lorraine. “We began negotiating with NADF for financing for a 40-by-80-foot building, complete with restaurant, take out, general store service on the main floor and basement for furniture, mechanical and office space.”
Near the end of 1997, the new store was finished – built right beside the former store so it could be used as an extra stock warehouse, as theowners had also started a new line of affordable furniture.
Fast forward to 2021 and Adow-Gamick is open seven days a week with a complete restaurant and take out service, while the general store offers groceries, gift ware, toys, hardware, appliances, furniture and an ATM to serve the community.
Speaking of the community, Lorraine takes great pride in serving hers.
“Satisfaction is when we provide services to our local people,” said Lorraine. “They have an alternate place to go shopping as opposed to the Northern Store. Also, it’s good to hire and train young people who never had jobs before they came to us.”
And what advice would Lorraine offer to those young First Nations people looking to start a business?
“When you want to start your own business, work hard and do what you can to achieve yours goals,” Lorraine advises. “Do not keep spending your profits until you know you are financially stable. It does get frustrating when things don’t work out, but in the end it’s all worth it.”