Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Chuck Tobin

UPSCALE DIGS – Alison Grove, left, Nicole Grove and Wayne Grove have recently completed a major expansion of their upscale dog kennel to meet mounting demand, as one of their tiny charges looks on at the of the hallway.

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Photo by Chuck Tobin

CURIOUS CANINES – Residents of the VIP boarding kennels wonder what all the fuss is about.

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Photo by Chuck Tobin

GETTING READY – Bicycles shipped in from China are being stored inside the building that will serve as a common area for the bed and breakfast under construction at the Eldorado Game Ranch.

Family knew special locale offered endless potential

Wayne and Alison Grove have been building their farm and game ranch off the Takhini River Road for more than 20 years.

By Chuck Tobin on June 16, 2017

Wayne and Alison Grove have been building their farm and game ranch off the Takhini River Road for more than 20 years. They’re still expanding, but in a fashion that’s not typical of the average farm.

Diversification may be another description.

They just added an addition to their upscale dog kennel. Some of their clients refer to it as the Hilton.

On paper, it’s the Eldorado VIP Boarding Kennels, and it just doubled in size at Christmas time.

They’ve still got their hay fields, and about a half a dozen rental units on the 450-acre spread, most of which is surrounded by game fencing.

They’re growing their elk herd again, after downsizing from 30 animals to eight a few years ago, when concerns over chronic wasting disease down south drove a spike through the elk market.

They’re back up to 15 animals with plans to increase to 30 again.

They just cut the antlers off of six bulls for the velvet they provide to the Asian market at $40 to $50 a pound.

The antlers from one animal yielded between 28 and 30 pounds this week.

One of the elk cows dropped her calf this week, and four more are expected.

The Groves are also getting into the bison business, with four on the farm now and plans to buy more.

Ideally, Wayne said in an interview this week, he’d like to reach a point where they can offer a variety package of meat dominated by beef but including bison and elk.

There’s also the multi-million-dollar investment into a brand new bed and breakfast situated on the farm that is expected to accommodate 8,000 Chinese visitors a year.

It’s under construction, and the 20-unit B & B is expected to host its first overnight guests this fall.

While Wayne acknowledges they’ve put some money into the new business, most of it is coming from China and investors who are confident in the market to see the northern lights and everything else the Yukon has to offer.

Wayne says growing the farm into more than a hay business is just part of his DNA, part of always looking for new opportunities and ventures.

Diversification, he says, helps solidify the business foundation.

Wayne says they decided years ago that they wanted to have more than the revenue stream from hay sales to ensure the family was insulated against any crop failures.

He and Alison toured doggie hotels down south, and Wayne applied what they learned to his background in mechanical engineering to design their own kennel.

It has high-end beds, concrete floors with in-floor heating, and tiling on the walls to make them scratch-proof and easier to clean.

There’s a common area with couches where dogs can watch TV. 101 Dalmatians, anybody?

There are 25 inside units of different sizes that are heated through the winter, and seven outside.

Each inside room has a door to its own fenced area outside. The doors can be raised and lowered from the main hallway that runs down the middle of the kennel.

There are also much larger runs fenced in where multiple dogs can romp around together.

The Groves started off with 15 rooms but decided to expand because the demand was there. The construction crew busted a gut to get it done by Christmas, says Alison.

They have their regular clientele, such as the couple who works seasonally in the territory during the summer.

When they’re in camp for a month at a time, their pets stay at the VIP kennels.

Alison says they originally thought summers would be generally quiet, though that hasn’t been the case.

In fact, summers are quite busy with all the music festivals and events going on where dogs might not be welcome, so their owners book their pets a room for the weekend, she says.

Their daughter, assistant kennel manager Nicole Grove, says they care for the animals just as their owners would care for them. If they require regular medication at specific times, they get it, as they would at home.

Nicole recalls one occasion when they had to give a dog a shot of insulin.

“Our business is steadily increasing, and the key to that, it’s because of word of mouth, and just doing a good job, I think,” says Wayne.

Over yonder, the B & B is underway.

Four of the 10 duplexes that will eventually be available are standing up.

They’ve been plumbed, electricity is hooked up and finishing work is continuing. Sites for the next six are laid out, and have the power and plumbing running to them.

An independent 3,100-square-foot building is already finished – with the exception of a large deck out front and a central wood fireplace inside. It will serve as a kitchen and common area for the guests to gather in.

Looking northward over the Pilot and Flat Top mountains, the common area provides an excellent viewpoint to watch the aurora borealis, says Wayne.

They dance across the mountain tops.

He points out how he’s plowed down a bunch of trees on the other side of the hay field to enhance the view.

From the very day they purchased the farm in 1996, Wayne knew they had a special location.

With the Asian interest in the northern lights and the North in general, he says, the location is that much more special.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve is a hop, skip and a jump away, as are the Takhini Hot Springs.

Wayne has already plowed out a toboggan hill. Dozens of fat tire bikes that have been shipped in from China are being stored temporarily in the common area.

The plan is to build greenhouses and put in gardens so guests can exercise their green thumbs and get a sense of Yukon agriculture.

They’re looking at the possibly of snowmachines and ATVs, and perhaps coach transportation to bring guests to other popular sites, like the wildlife museum at the Caribou Crossing Trading Post.

“It’s a perfect location,” he says. “It could not have been better.”

Wayne says the first guests from China are scheduled to arrive this fall.

Ultimately, they expect to host 8,000 visitors annually, and there’s a small crew of Chinese workers at the site making early preparations, in addition to the local building contractors.

“The government is watching this closely,” Wayne says of the interest in how the agri-tourism business will do.

Comments (5)

Up 8 Down 1

Daniel on Jun 19, 2017 at 2:43 am

Wayne and Allison, the most wonderful couple I have ever seen, and you will very impress the beautiful and cozy dog kennel, good job, Nicole!

Up 7 Down 1

yukon56 on Jun 17, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Our dog loves it there.They ensure animals are compatible and happy

Up 10 Down 0

DocLovesEldorado on Jun 16, 2017 at 9:14 pm

They take care of our dog as if he is theirs. When we go away, our pup loves going there and knowing that reassures us.

You guys rock!

Up 10 Down 1

Jeff Blackburn on Jun 16, 2017 at 8:18 pm

Wow, this is awesome. So glad for Allison and Wayne...both hard working people who are more than happy to share a laugh or two :D

Up 11 Down 1

BnR on Jun 16, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Eldorado VIP. Won't take my mutts anywhere else. Allison and Wayne have a first class facility.
And Wayne, crawling around in the drywall dust at your age? Geez. Clean your pants eh?

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