Keeping it local in Dawson City
A Summer 2015 Yukon Prospector Web Extra
Dawson City has to truck a lot of things in. Food, toilet paper, booze…. Many of the town’s amenities are made elsewhere.
But one thing it has in spades, one thing it’s always had, is gold. If you’re buying it in the famous gold-rush town, there’s a very good chance it’s locally sourced. Especially if you’re going to Uta Reilly at Klondike Nugget and Ivory.
Reilly has been in Dawson since 1978. She’s a petit women, who talks in short clipped tones with a slight German accent. She is unfailingly polite, if brusque; her blue eyes sparkle with the mark of shrewd intelligence. Originally from Germany, Reilly moved to Canada with her husband James after the two met overseas.
She loved everything about Canada when she got here she says, especially the wide-open spaces and friendly people. “You shouldn’t be here when you don’t like Canada,” she says simply. Reilly owns the Klondike Nugget and Ivory shop in Dawson city. She's worked there since 1979, buying the place in about 1988.
“Because I wanted it,” she says. “That’s a good enough reason.”
She also, of course, enjoyed the business.
Reilly is the 5th owner of the store which was originally built in 1904. Not much has changed since then. “Some of the designs changed. Things go up in down in dollars. Some years are really busy, but it’s an ongoing business,” she says. They’ve also added a workshop, where a goldsmith is on hand.
But, as always, Reilly buys heavily from the gold miners around Dawson. “The mining is such a big part of this area, so it would be silly to go and look for gold from other places,” she says. Her year-round store operates under the philosophy of local first she says, and she has the Klondike gold to prove it.
It’s also a bit of a family affair. Her son-in-law works there as well. “The people who work for you are a big part of how successful you are. And without good staff you could not do it,” she says.
Although she’s been in the business for over 35 years, Reilly doesn’t let on that she’s slowing down at all. She says she’ll wait until someone comes along that wants to take over before stepping out.
Does she want to retire? Eventually.
“You’re not getting younger, you’re getting older, you know,” she says, with a look of finality. Y
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