In honour of Small Business Week, we thought we’d share the story behind one of our most remote Square sellers: Captain’s Cabins and Bridge-Less Lodging in the Northwest Territories.
Since 2012, Gina and Johnny Mikula have rented out three cabins and a small four-bedroom lodge in a remote location on the way to the city of Yellowknife. Seven months out of the year, the couple hosts guests from around the world.
Gina moved up to this sparsely populated area from Vancouver after her oldest child left home. “I wanted to see the Northern Lights, learn some native culture and see some snow,” she recalls. She landed a job as a deckhand aboard the ferry that crossed the Mackenzie River on the way to Yellowknife and the mines beyond. “Not only did I fall in love with the North; I also fell in love with my captain, Johnny!” she says.
Gina and Johnny settled in West Hinterland in the Northwest Territories and rented, then renovated, a house on a three-acre lot. The couple’s dream of buying the land came true when their landlord accepted an offer and both of their sons came to help build the cabins. When a new bridge in the area put an end to the ferry service, they both lost their jobs. But by that point the accommodations were complete and guests started visiting from all over the world.
“It has been a lot of fun sharing this beautiful place with so many people — not only from all over Canada, but from Europe, the Philippines, Australia, Mexico and the United States,” says Gina.
The bulk of the visitors come up to fish on the Mackenzie River, Canada’s largest. They launch their boats at the old ferry landing or go camping in the area. “We also have a lot of people who come from Yellowknife (350 kilometers north) for a romantic getaway,” Gina adds.
Humans are not the only visitors the lodge sees. An abundance of wildlife also calls the area home. Gina and Johnny regularly encounter everything from foxes, deer and lynxes to bears, wolves and moose. Giant red-headed woodpeckers, rare pelicans and other birds can also be spotted in the summertime, when daylight lasts for nearly 24 hours. In the winter, the Northern Lights are a common sight.
Until they discovered Square, Gina and Johnny struggled to find an efficient way to collect payment from their guests in such a remote location. In the beginning, they only accepted cash or a cheque, although most of their guests only carried credit cards. “We looked into getting a machine from the banks, but they wanted a lot of money to rent their equipment, plus big fees,” says Gina. “And they wanted us to pay for every month when we are only open seven months a year!”
Cheques took up to 10 days to clear and people paying by cash had to go to the closest town to use the one ATM, which often ran out of cash. Gina heard about Square and liked that it was free to set up, and payments get transferred into their account within 24 hours. It also often impresses their guests.
“We had a guest from eastern Canada who was on his way to Yellowknife for a ‘bucket list’ trip he was doing,” recalls Gina. “He was a little worried about what kind of cabin he’d find here as he hadn’t seen a gas station or any habitation for the last two hours on the road. He was really worried as he had very little cash on him.” The guest was pleasantly surprised by the cabins — and by the couple’s Square Reader, which he’d never seen before.
Captain’s Cabins and Bridge-Less Lodging just wrapped up for the 2016 season but it’s taking reservations for next spring and beyond. Next year, Gina and Johnny plan to open a garden shop on the property. Stay up to date through Gina and Johnny’s Facebook page.