By Tawnya Plain Eagle
The highly anticipated Piikani Travel Centre has officially opened their doors to the public.
“We like to start looking eternally about how we could provide opportunity for our people here,” Chief Stan Grier said.
The Travel Centre has provided 25 full time and part time jobs to Piikani Nation members, along with two assistant manager positions.
“From there, our assistant managers have the opportunity to be trained to become the overall general manager for the Travel Centre,” Grier said.
The Travel Centre was not only built to generate jobs, but an attempt to keep business within Piikani.
Trish Crow Eagle, Assistant Manager for the Travel Centre believes having popular items in store will attract more people to the Travel Centre as oppose to traveling to neighbouring towns.
in 2019, Piikani Resource Development Ltd commissioned MNP to carry out a study of the economic leakage that occurs from Piikani Nation into the surrounding communities.
The study found that the total annual spending of the approximately 520 on-reserve households is estimated to be $15.2 million.
With $3.5 million spent in Pincher Creek alone.
“We tried to get popular items in here, so that people don’t have to drive to town,” she said.
She adds that with the colder weather upon us, this should eliminate the stress that comes with driving further than needed during harsh conditions.
The Travel Centre is also fully equipped with a kitchen that provides hot lunch and fresh pastries – with a twist.
Merlin Provost, kitchen manager and head chef for The Travel Centre, aims to provide instant hot meals for drivers and community members.
“How we want to stand out from other places is with our bannock and frybread desserts,” he said.
“We got this idea from another native owned restaurant in B.C – not everyone can get a taste a frybread on a regular basis,” he added.
As the months go on, Provost will expand his menu but for now shoppers will be able to purchase fries, chicken, and burgers along with the frybread pastries.
"From Fort Macleod to Crowsnest Pass this is the only place you can stop off the highway, the variety we have should please everybody, not just here in the kitchen but the fresh produce as well," Provost Added.
The Piikani Travel Centre will have an official grand opening this spring.