“Fieldhouse is our life, so to speak,” says the Yellowknife family, who are forced to close the canteen due to a strike

Mustafa Sarikaya has run the canteen at Yellowknife's Fieldhouse since it opened in 2011. It was forced to close due to the community strike.  (submitted by Reyhan Sarikaya - photo credit)

Mustafa Sarikaya has run the canteen at Yellowknife’s Fieldhouse since it opened in 2011. It was forced to close due to the community strike. (submitted by Reyhan Sarikaya – photo credit)

For Mustafa Sarikaya, his wife Reyhan and their three children, life revolves around the Yellowknife Fieldhouse.

It’s a place to earn an income, interact with your community and share your culture.

“Fieldhouse is our life, so to speak,” says Mustafa Sarikaya.

He was awarded the contract to run the canteen at the City of Yellowknife facility when it opened in 2011.

“My son was only three months old. Now he is 12. Now we have other children. Our kids are growing up in the Fieldhouse.”

But since unionized Yellowknife City employees walked out of work last week, the Yellowknife Fieldhouse has been closed to the public and Sarikaya, who is not a city employee, has been forced to close his shop. Negotiators from the city and the Public Service Alliance of Canada have agreed to return to the negotiating table on Monday in hopes of reaching an agreement.

“Right now it’s kind of bad because I don’t have any other income right now, just Fieldhouse. I hope it doesn’t take that long before we get back in business and… continue to serve our customers.”

Luke Carroll/CBC

Luke Carroll/CBC

“Most of our customers are children and they will probably be very happy to see me again. I’m the only guy selling cotton candy in town right now,” he jokes.

Luckily, Sarikaya says he buys most of the groceries he sells frozen.

“Because it’s frozen we don’t waste a lot of things. We bring some stuff home and use it for personal stuff or we donate some stuff if it’s too much.”

His canteen only reopened three and a half months ago after being closed for over a year due to the pandemic. Having to close last week is another financial hit, says Sarikaya.

“I’m lucky that my wife is at least working. She’s bringing home some money right now. Otherwise, I’ll look for another job to earn something,” he says.

Submitted by Reyhan Sarikaya

Submitted by Reyhan Sarikaya

Sarikaya takes no part in the dispute; he just wants it to end.

“I think the city workers … they need a raise too,” he says. He hopes the city and workers will come to an agreement, “and everyone can be happy and we can get back to work, back to business.”

family business

Sarikaya and his wife moved to Yellowknife in 2004, just three years after he immigrated to Canada from Turkey. Two of his siblings and his mother still live in the countryside and were fortunate to have escaped the devastation of last week’s earthquake.

His canteen embraces the flavors of home.

“We don’t have a full kitchen, there’s not much we can do. We make Turkish coffee, Turkish desserts and Turkish wraps. Not much. We just want to show a bit of Turkish taste,” he says.

The canteen is a family business. It’s usually open in the evenings and weekends and you’ll often find most of the family behind the counter.

For Sarikaya, however, the Fieldhouse is more than just a place to make a living. He also lives and breathes football – coaching, directing and playing most days of the week. He is the vice president of Yellowknife’s adult football league.

“We live half our lives in the Fieldhouse, half our lives here,” says Sarikaya in his living room.

Much of this life is gone at the moment.

“We are in the void. you feel the emptiness There’s not much to do,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t take long.”


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