Going to the dogs!

Road Dogs is a music store, a coffee shop and the new Yukon Online Marketplace. 
It’s a place to buy a guitar, peruse vinyl while you enjoy a great cappuccino, and the pick up spot for a new online marketplace for Yukon products.

Willow Gamberg and Jasmine Roush are makers of amazing spaces. The proprietors of Road Dogs Music Supply and The Coffee Shop respectively, their businesses are located in Hamilton and Son Guitar Works on Third Avenue in Whitehorse. It’s a place to buy a guitar, or peruse vinyl while you enjoy a great cappuccino. It’s also where the idea for an online marketplace for Yukon products was born.

Gamberg and Roush are like-minded entrepreneurs whose parallel journeys to Guitar Works were brought about seemingly by fate. Gamberg began in the music supply business working at Dean’s Strings; owner Dean Tower hired her when she was 16. She wasn’t in the position to buy the business from him when it was for sale in 2018. However, a year later, when Bob Hamilton was closing the Guitar Works storefront, Gamberg was ready to take it on. Now she sells new and used instruments, music supplies and vinyl.
“That’s been my new obsession, it’s been super fun,” she says of the record section. “This town loves vinyl.”
The name “Road Dogs” comes from the year Gamberg spent touring with a band. She says it’s “kind of a classic name for a roadie.”

Meanwhile, Roush began with a mobile venture, The Coffee Bar, vending from a trailer. She moved on to more stable digs at the former Qualita’s Cleaners, a stone’s throw from the music shop.
“I started with [the name] The Coffee Bar as a throw to the Italian coffee bars,” Roush says, though she confesses she’s never been to Italy. “I drew a lot of inspiration from that. Then I went from vending to indoors and I was like, ‘how do I bridge this now?’ So I just changed the name to The Coffee Shop.” However, the drycleaner’s space was for sale and she’d eventually have to relocate. Coincidentally, Road Dogs Music had a small coffee bar left over from Hamilton’s days. After hearing about Roush’s predicament, Gamberg agreed to share her space.
Roush makes espresso coffee drinks and offers pastries from the Swiss Bakery, as well as sandwiches from Alligator Grilled Cheese. Mondays feature Sourdoughnuts pop-ups.

“I don’t know where I’d go if I didn’t have these guys, honestly,” says Roush, who isn’t interested in baking. But she has another motivation. “It allows me to support our community,” she says. This ethos is something Roush shares with Gamberg; their core philosophy is “locals supporting local.” In the past, they’ve provided space for local pop-ups, such as Tacky Town thrift store. Now, they’re doing something bigger. This winter, when local gift-buying options are limited, Gamberg and Roush are taking the Christmas craft fairs online. It’s their response to COVID, and to the impact of cancelled craft sales on artists. Gamberg and Roush also want to provide Yukoners with a local alternative to online behemoths like Amazon.

“It really sucks for the artisans who aren’t going to have that revenue,” says Gamberg, who has been a craft fair vendor in the past. “Especially with COVID, I’m worried that people are going to do all their shopping on Amazon.”
Gamberg and Roush are expanding on a platform they’ve already built to offer a full, multi-vendor market, a “one-stop shop for Yukon-made goods and services.”

The back of the shop will become the fulfillment centre where goods will be stored and where folks can pick up their purchases. Gamberg and Roush will do most of the work themselves. They see a number of advantages to the shopping model. People can pick up items whenever the shop is open, there are no long line-ups, and vendors don’t have to spend long days at craft market tables. It can also provide access to goods from all over the Yukon. Folks looking for the fulfillment centre won’t have a hard time finding it. Roush and Gamberg recently acquired a new sign from their neighbour, Green Screen Printing. It features the Road Dogs dog-skull-and-drumstick-crossbones logo on one half, and The Coffee Shop’s 1970s balloon lettering on the other. Once shoppers have had a coffee, found their favourite vinyl, and picked up their local products, they might want to explore Third Avenue further.

“This block is just awesome,” says Gamberg. “There’s us and Green Screen and Tara [Kolla] at the Wish Factory. We’re having a lot of fun on this block.”

Road Dogs Music and The Coffee Shop are at 3165 Third Avenue.
To shop the Yukon Online Marketplace or to inquire as a vendor, visit YukonOnlineMarket.ca.

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