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Couple launch fire protection business

Matching suits and matching goals make for a working relationship

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 02/01) - When Angela Mernickle walks onto a construction site carrying a 10-centimetre, six-metre-long pipe, she gets some strange looks.

Some men, trying to be gentlemen, offer to carry the pipe for her, she says.

NNSL photo

Angela and Jim Mernickle are making a go of the sprinkler installation business. - Jennifer McPhee/NNSl photo

Angela and her husband, Jim, started J & A Fire Protection, a sprinkler inspection and installation business last January.

Angela is four-foot-nine and three-quarter inches.

"One electrician started telling everyone on site that she can bench-press 400 pounds," says her husband. "Some people actually believed it."

For years, Jim Mernickle worked for Slade's Mechanical. When his job took him to Inuvik in 1997 to install sprinklers at SAM school, Slade's hired Angela to help out.

"It was supposed to be just a five-week thing, but they decided to keep me on," she says.

Later, they worked together for another company and made plans to strike out on their own. But when the company found out about their business licence application, they were let go.

Denied unemployment insurance, money was tight.

"It was a tough struggle," recalls Jim.

But those days are over.

"We're so busy these days that we are starting to turn people away," says Jim.

"We're booked solid until Christmas."

Their extensive list of contracts include the Sir John Franklin high school renovations, Northern Lites Motel, First Air Cargo and the recently-built Weledeh Catholic school.

The couple wear matching work suits and don't mind spending 24-hours a day together.

"We're lost without each other," says Jim.

And Angela says construction is a lucrative business for woman.

"Men in general are paid more than women," she says. "I get paid as a guy."

Angela is taking an apprenticeship program at Red Deer College, but her in-school training is only seven weeks a year over three years. The rest of the time, she works and makes good money.

"Any girl that can't afford to go to college or university and has the guts to give something else a try, should go into construction," she says.