Depanneur Wemok of Wemotaci
In July 2016, Réjeanne Petiquay and Jean-Guy Boivin opened Dépanneur Wemok Convenience Store in a former construction trailer, with 700 $ worth of products in inventory. Almost three years later, the business doubled its floor area and it now employs six persons, an incredible accomplishment, without any external financial support.
Prior to 2016, the only place where the population of Wemotaci could go to buy food was a grocery store called Bonichoix, which is owned by the Band Council. Consequently, if you wanted to buy chips or soft drinks in the evening, you had to go to the grocery store before closing, at 9:00pm. This situation and the need thus created gave the couple the idea of opening a convenience store that could fill that void.
During the summer of the same year, the two owners bought a 12’ x 50’ construction trailer, which they completely renovated and redesigned by doing the work at night and on weekends, given the fact that the two owners were working during the day. They worked at that pace for two months before being finally able to open the convenience store. At that time, half of the floor area of the convenience store was reserved for retail business and the other half was used for storage.
When they went into business, the couple had modest budget forecasts and estimated at 300 $ what they could earn daily with their business. But the store quickly grew in popularity and these forecasts exceeded swiftly. Over time, they reinvested the profits made in their business which allowed them to almost double the surface area and offer new services to their clientele. Among others, they built a cold storage room to be able to sell beer, and they also sell cigarettes. The convenience store is also a retailer for Loto-Québec.
Ms. Petiquay worked for 30 years at the Band Council in the finance department. She therefore had a sound foundation in administration to help her manage their business. Considering that success came quickly for the convenience store, she left her job to work full time in her store. As for Mr. Boivin, he kept his job. Because the depanneur is open from 8 :00am to 11 :00pm, every day, and given the fact that, at the beginning, they had no employees, the two owners have worked really hard during the first years. Fortunately, they were able to count on the help and support of their children and grandchildren. But, at that time, Ms. Petiquay was still working almost seven days a week. Now that they have employees, she works from 9:00am to 11:30pm, but she no longer works on weekends.
Debate over the Place of Private vs Community
When Dépanneur Wemok Convenience Store opened its doors, it somewhat launched a debate in the community as to the place of a private business in a sector of activity occupied by a community business owned by the Band Council. At the beginning, there was some sort of competition between the convenience store and the grocery store, which, as a response, even extended its opening hours in the evening for about two to three months. After a while, the Band Council and the two owners sat down together and discussed how the two enterprises could work together. Today, the operations of the two businesses are complementary, because it happens that Dépanneur Wemok Convenience Store places orders to Bonichoix, and this really works well for both parties.
To conclude, Ms. Petiquay and Mr. Boivin take pride in not being indebted, which is a remarkable achievement indeed, given the fact that they didn’t have to resort to any external financial assistance to launch their business; that doesn’t happen very often. The two owners plan on expanding the convenience store once again in a near future, which is a testament to the success of this great enterprise.
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