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Tent shop on summer hours

John Curran
Northern News Services

Fort McPherson (July 25/05) - Things are slower then normal at the Fort McPherson Tent and Canvas Shop, but that's not a bad thing.

For nine months the NWT Development Corp. subsidiary's employees have worked flat-out to build up inventory levels so they can relax during the summer and enjoy some time on the land.

Liz Norman sews a 10- by 12-foot tent at the Fort McPherson Tent and Canvas shop. She says she can complete three such tents in one day.

"Normally we have 13 employees, but most of them have the summer off," said Verna Francis, who has been the assistant manager at the plant for three years.

"We only have four workers right now."

Around in one incarnation or another for 35 years, the tent shop is known for its durable prospector tents and teepees, as well as canvas bags of all shapes, sizes and colours.

Roughly 200, 50-yard rolls of canvas land on the Fort McPherson loading dock every year.


Much of that material passes under the needle of Liz Norman.

Norman said she can sew three 10- by 12-foot tents in one day.

"A 16- by 20-foot tent takes the entire day to do," she said. "I can sew four of the nine- by nine-foot models in a day."

She said she enjoys her job, adding the money is good and the people are nice.

Norman's co-worker and friend Shirley Alexie agrees.

"I like it here a lot," she said. "I enjoy sewing and like hanging out with my friends who work here."

Where Norman does mainly tents, Alexie's efforts focus on making bags.

"Lately I've been doing a lot of those two-pocket portfolios - I can do about 25 in a day," she said.

"They're big sellers for conferences, like the Inuvik Petroleum Show."

Outlet store

While most of the shop's business comes from custom orders, it also includes a factory outlet store, where visitors to the community of about 820 residents can buy a wide selection of embroidered bags and clothing.

"We have two automated embroidering machines - a single-head unit and a three-head unit," said Francis.

"You just punch in the code and the three-head machine will do three hats in less than five minutes."

The store also sells birch-bark baskets and carvings produced by other NWT Development Corp. companies.

"We all work together and try to help each other with sales," she said.