Maple Creek News
Jo-Anne Pratt and her husband Dave came to Tompkins in 2015 looking for a place to park their fifth wheel for six months each year.
Barely two years later and the couple owns a home, several properties and has recently opened a small store hoping to give the town’s 170 residents a little grocery convenience they’d been lacking.
DJ Tompkins Convenience opened its doors full time on Aug. 18 in an eight-foot by 14-foot building situated on their home property — built by Jo-Anne, her son Ryan and their bare hands. It carries more than 350 products, varying from grocery items to tobacco products and in between.
“It just got to the point where the people were really nice and we really liked it here,” Jo-Anne says. “So we bought a house, then some property, and then we bought more and have built the store.
“The store has me living here full time. I really enjoy it because I love the people.”
The entire operation has come to fruition in just a few short months, as Jo-Anne first had the idea in May and was building by June. The small store opened for a sneak peek on the Canada Day long weekend, and was completely full time not three months after breaking ground.
Aside from the Co-op, Tompkins doesn’t have much for essentials on sale, and Pratt felt a small store with quick fixes would be embraced. With Gull Lake, Swift Current, Maple Creek and Medicine Hat all increasingly long distances from town, it can be a pain when a Tompkins resident needs just one or two items.
“When you need a can a soup, or there’s that spaghetti sauce you forgot, you don’t always want to travel again to go get it,” Jo-Anne says. “If I was complaining, I figured somebody else had to be complaining too.
“So I figured, ‘Why not?’”
Health issues have kept Jo-Anne from her doing her regular job as a long-haul truck driver, a career Dave is still heavily involved with. She felt it was probably necessary to slow things down some and find a home-based activity to focus on.
“I got sick and then I got better, and I said, ‘I’m not going back,’” she says. “I wanted to stay home for a while and had been (driving truck) for 10 years. I wanted to have a little bit of a home life, but I needed something to do.
“I didn’t want to sit on my butt all the time, so I opened up a store.”
The store’s mantra of convenience isn’t just for customers, as it sits next door to the house, giving Jo-Anne as much flexibility as her health dictates she needs. She doesn’t keep set hours, usually opening about noon and running until 9 or 10 p.m. But since she’s right next door, she has a doorbell service from 8 a.m. to midnight, and has even been known to make a late-night transaction in her PJs simply because a customer needed something.
“The people here are just really cheerful toward everyone, and you look forward to that coming in. It really has that small-town feel, which is exactly what I want.”
Jo-Anne Pratt has opened a small store in Tompklins, built with her own two hands and the help of her son Ryan.