Rolf Hougen started Yukoner Appreciation in the 1980’s at Hougen’s Department store on Main Street where Coast Mountain Sports and Sports Experts are now. It was an evening of fun, deals and entertainment and the evening that the store launched their “Christmas Budget’. The Christmas Budget was “Santa’s Little Helper”. People could buy their gifts up to a predetermined limit and then make payments the following year.
But the emphasis was on the fun and entertainment. People got together at Hougen’s with a free beer or a glass of wine to visit and to plan the winter parties and activities to come. They listened to local musicians like Moe Grant, Joe Loutchan, Ken Mason, Kelly Hougen and Gordon Healy. They played alongside the centre stairwell of Hougen’s Department Store greeting customers as they came in. It was a night for the whole town to get together.
In the late 90’s the tradition of Yukoner Appreciation Day fell away until, about 2010, Coast Mountain Sports, on the advice of their General Manager Jason Gendron, brought it back. It was immediately a huge success. Coast Mountain Sports, Sports Experts and Seasons Fashions (a store that closed in 2019) all participated in the event. They had deals, food, beverages, and music like the days of old. People remembered their night and came to celebrate.
It was such a success that, in 2013, Mary-Jane Warshawski, co-owner of Coast Mountain Sports and Sports Experts and President of Main Street Yukon Society, decided that it belonged on all of Main Street. She and her assistant at the time, Chloe Dumont, walked door to door, encouraging businesses to participate and charging only $20 to help cover costs. Air North, Yukon’s Airline saw the potential of the Day. From that first street wide event, Air North was always a supporter of Yukoner Appreciation. They donated free tickets to Whitehorse from any location they flew and thus the Passport was launched. The more stores you visited, the more chance you had of winning the flights!
Some businesses were leery and chose not to participate, but after the success of the first year, most chose to take part. When Main Street Yukon became a committee of The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the responsibility and potential of Yukoner Appreciation became their job. And they have done great work, even expanding it beyond Main Street.
The one thing Coast Mountain Sports and Sports Experts do differently: we still hold the traditional evening event. We serve wine and snacks on the Friday evening of Yukoner Appreciation Week and many people come to just visit and to see Yukoners they haven’t seen in while! They also come for the DEALS! It’s still our way of saying THANK YOU. Thank you Yukoners for your support over the many years.