Chain of demand

I arrived in Inuvik for the first time in early July 1972. What first struck me as I toured the town was
A) the 24 hours of sunlight and
B) how closed off the town felt without a highway.
It felt like even more of a no man’s land when I looked at it from a corporate perspective.

Caterpillar puts a strict limit on dealerships, allowing only one dealership per jurisdiction around the world. Puny little Inuvik had two. But the corporate anomaly that most piqued my interest as a 21-year-old was the burger chain that shall remain nameless. How did scrawny little Inuvik, with a population of 2,800, manage to get a chain restaurant?

Over the next few years, working as a taxi driver, I delivered a ton of vittles out of that place. Then one day, around four years after I had come to town, I noticed there were no corporate signs or logos on the outside of the building. Inside, no signs of a burger chain existed. It was suddenly operating as a mom-and-pop shop. I wondered, every so often over the years, why they dumped the chain. I was positive it was a very profitable business. I had to wait almost 40 years to find out what actually happened.

One day in 1975 or 1976, corporate offices in Vancouver received a call from a woman with a complaint about the Inuvik restaurant. After she detailed her complaint, she was asked, “Would you give me the store location again, please?”

“Inuvik,” she said.
“Inuvik, Northwest Territories.”

There was a long pause. “We don’t have an Inuvik franchise,” said the representative.
The woman went ballistic and informed him that they certainly did have a restaurant in Inuvik, she had eaten there a few times and she knew their products when she saw them. The woman sounded genuine, so the company took a chance and flew a representative to Inuvik. In Inuvik, the representative confirmed the woman’s story. Now the company had to deal with whoever was involved with the spurious business.

In the 70s, there were only two ways to get to Inuvik. One was to fly from Edmonton on Pacific Western Airlines. The second was to fly from Whitehorse via Jet Air. This was the route used to supply the Inuvik business. The supplies were shipped to a legitimate franchise in Whitehorse, via truck, and then rerouted by air to Inuvik. To this day, I have never found out what the repercussions were in Whitehorse, but I hope it won’t take another 40 years to find out!

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