Evelyn Koh wanted a reason to stay in Haines Junction. She worked for years in Whitehorse, at the college and for the Yukon government. She also did carpentry and design work. For a while, she traveled back-and-forth between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. Finally, she settled in the community.
She owns a piece of land off of Quill Crescent. On it sits a small house, and behind the house, a wall tent. Koh lives in the house in the winter. In the summer she transforms the house and the wall tent into Acacia Vintage. She
On display in the house and on the porch is furniture, kitchenware, jewellery, art – there’s no formula. Koh sells things she likes.
“They appeal to me aesthetically, or for their imperfections.”
She says the things she sells won’t appeal to those who are drawn to the shiny and new.
“I bring in things that have a previous life and character.”
Outside, through a yard wild with fireweed, is the wall tent where the clothes are kept: clothes, boots, hats, jewellery and belts.
Koh travels to BC and Washington to buy goods to sell in Haines Junction. She also sources items from The Netherlands, Saskatchewan and California. She works with suppliers who understand what she’s looking for in terms of aesthetics and quality. She’s met most of them in person and developed a rapport with them online.
The nature of the community in Haines Junction is what allows Acacia Vintage to work. Koh says it’s a “micro-business.” Her customer base is built up by word-of-mouth recommendations.
“I have no illusions, not everyone is interested in what I do.”
But, she says the ones who are interested tell their friends. Koh connects with the people who come in: “I know people from all parts of the community because of the business.”
She says it’s possible to create a livelihood doing what you love in the village. And, by capitalizing on the spirit of possibility, Koh says she contributes to the community, making it a more interesting place to live.
She’s not the only one doing this. She lists new businesses that have sprung up in the village: 14-Acres Farm catering, The Little Green Apple grocery store, Spruce Cottage Farm, Wanderer’s Inn Backpackers Hostel. But Koh doesn’t stop there. She proceeds to list every business in Haines Junction. It doesn’t take long to list them all, but they tumble off her tongue with familiar ease. It’s a supportive community.
She says the landscape of business is evolving in Haines Junction, citing the recent start-up of the St. Elias Chamber of Commerce as a sign of the positive growth atmosphere.
“There is a really good climate for a person to come to Haines Junction and shape the life they want,” says Koh.
The landscape is inspiring, the community is creative.
“Acacia Vintage is an exercise in figuring out my path.”
In so doing, Koh says she sacrifices the security of a fulltime job. The shop is open from Thursday to Sunday, noon to five, and by appointment, in the summertime. In the off-season, she is involved in village politics, teaches a bit at the college and opens the occasional pop-up shop.
Looking ahead, Koh says she’d like to one day make things to sell in her store. She doesn’t want to get any bigger, though; she says that would jeopardize the heart of her business. But she wouldn’t mind taking a pop-up shop or two to Dawson City and other communities in the territory.
Acacia Vintage is located at 118 Quill Crescent in Haines Junction. It’s open from Thursday to Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. To make an appointment to shop during another time, email email@example.com, or call (867) 634-5164.