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Boyle businesses booming

New and growing companies thriving
It’s a risk to open any business, even one which is in a growth industry like cannabis, but Boyle now has Earth to Embers thanks to entrepreneurs Shelby Kiteley and Terryl Turner who opened their store Dec. 2, 2022.

BOYLE — In a recent interview Village of Boyle mayor Colin Derko talked about how the community is thriving while coming off a pandemic and facing a recession.

Two businesses in particular showcase the can-do spirit of the village which, like Derko said, is well situated to boom being near to a major highway, has access to rail service, is along an energy corridor and has plenty of recreational opportunities both in and outside the village limits.

“We purchased Derko’s Service in 2013,” said co-owner Rod Veremy in a Jan. 19 interview. “And we operated out of our Prosvita terminal which is across from AlPac (Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries).”

When Veremy and wife Jen took over the company there were 10 to 12 employees, but they’ve expanded in those 10 years to over 100.

“I think we’re about 105 now, total,” he said.

The company is a bulk fuel distributor for the Cenovus Energy brand servicing the agricultural, forestry, oil and gas, and construction industries.

“We did a fairly big acquisition in April, buying out Black Tiger Fuels.” Veremy said, noting Black Tiger had seven established locations. “We’re opening in Edmonton (so) we service pretty well from Edmonton north all the way to Fort Chipewyan.”

The business was well established by Jerry Derko and had existed for 65 years before the Veremy’s bought it.

“Growth always has some hurdles, but when you're working with that kind of history, it sure makes it a lot easier,” he said. “Honestly, what makes it easy is a good team.”

They’ve grown so large they needed a bigger head office and while they could have gone anywhere, they chose Boyle.

“We have a substantial staff that work out of Boyle so, we try to encourage them to set roots whether it be the Village of Boyle, or at least the county of Athabasca,” said Veremy. "It's so important to have that family support group. Everyone has bad days at work so it's nice to go home to be with the family and it helps people not just focus on work.”

He also credits the mayor with being a cheerleader for Boyle and area.

“I'll tell you it's incredible, the people he knows,” he said. “You can cross paths with a politician in Calgary and they know about Boyle. There’s not very many small communities that are nearly as in the spotlight and I think that’s due to Colin’s efforts.”

And the Veremy’s are looking at expanding further, whether it’s taking over more territory or building in the industrial park just north of Boyle.

“We’ve spent a couple of years trying to work with the county to see how we can get services into the whole subdivision so we can see the subdivision grow,” he said adding a change in council and three changes in CAO hindered the process.

For Earth to Embers, which opened Dec. 2, 2022, the owners Shelby Kiteley and Terryl Turner entered a growing industry but were concerned if it was right for Boyle.

“I did have someone say, ‘Aren’t you worried about the type of people you're going to be bringing into Boyle?’ and I said, ‘You would be shocked at the people that walked through this door, it would be your grandmother, and you wouldn't know it,’” said Turner. "It's just everyday people and they’re afraid to tell anybody that they do it because it is still a stigma on it.”

It was right then an older gentleman entered with his daughter and when he realized an interview was taking place he said, “I’m 80 years old and I smoke pot.”

He lives in a facility where he’s not allowed to use it indoors, so he must go outside, but the cannabis helps with his pain.

“The demographic that comes in here is right from 18 to 88,” said Kiteley. “They’ve all got their owns reasons for doing what they do, and I think any of the naysayers

who were initially out there have ether come on board or they’re just letting us do our thing.”

It wasn’t just pushback which concerned the two women, it was the onerous task of applying for and being vetted by Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis (AGLC).

“We printed out what seemed like a 2,000-page application from AGLC. We had to do criminal records checks, financial security checks, they did a criminal investigation,” Kiteley said. “We had to make a business plan to present to them.”

Then finding the right location.

“We kind of shook every tree that we could trying to find something in town that was accessible,” she said. “It took us about a year and a half from start to finish.”

Then every e-mail from AGLC made Kiteley and Turner nervous.

“You have to follow their rules,” Turner said. “If you don’t follow their rules in their order your application can be denied, and you’d lose thousands of dollars. You don’t get that money back if you get denied.”

Finally, a special highly secure vault had to be installed to hold the cannabis while customers peruse a binder of all the products from vapes to flower or bud, the term for loose marijuana.

“Our first order was a crapshoot, we just tried to cast the net wide and hope we won,” laughed Kiteley. “But after that we had a suggestion box for about three weeks and so right now our catalog is based on 75 per cent customer suggestions.”

The two women are highly active in the community with volunteering too, but it’s illegal for a cannabis store to donate to or sponsor anything so they are offering room for local artisans who craft cannabis related paraphernalia to sell on consignment to give back.

“The accessories we can get from wherever so that’s why we were able to bring in local people,” Kiteley said. “The accessories are not regulated; they just have to be related to cannabis.”

The women are hoping a few more vendors will come forward and are limiting it to artists around Boyle and Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement.

“The response has been 98 per cent positive,” said Kiteley. “We’ve got one employee right now who’s part time and I think eventually we would be looking for a seasonal employee just until we really get going then we’d hire permanent, but we’re definitely going to need extra help in the summer.” 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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