Esk’etemc First Nation leaders are excited to see the community’s store and café undergo renovations thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT).
The community project, located about 40 kilometres south of Williams Lake, is one of ten economic development projects throughout NDIT’s service region to benefit from more than $1.8 million through NDIT’s Economic Diversification Infrastructure program announced April 29.
“For many years the operational capacity of the store and café have been restricted due to outdated and malfunctioning equipment and systems,” said Esk’etemc economic development officer, Bettina Johnson.
“This project will allow us to upgrade much-needed equipment, including the store’s cold food storage systems, shelving and displays, and the café’s commercial kitchen and dining room area. It will allow us to make long-term exterior upgrades, including safety lighting, safer fuel pumps, and new durable siding.”
Built in the early 90s, the store has only received a few minor updates here and there over the years.
The renovation project will commence mid-May. It will incorporate Secwepemc cultural elements and design as well as utilize local craftsmanship and, as much as possible, local wood from the Esk’et Sawmill.
Bettina said they anticipate it will take a year for project completion.
“Our new store manager Franklin Johnson and our new café manager Grace Johnson have been key for building an exciting vision of what can be possible for our operations,” she said.
“Writing this proposal to NDIT was a capacity-building opportunity for our trainee proposal-writer Marcy Paul, who did an incredible job getting quotes from vendors and piecing together the various elements of our plan.”
Supported by Esket’emc chief and council, the renovation project is part of the nation’s long-term economic development strategy. Once complete it is anticipated to result in increased revenue at the store and café, and result in job creation, product development and capacity building opportunities for the community.
Due to COVID-19, a number of safety measures are in place at Esk’et. Travel is restricted and the store is currently partially open.