US Border Communities Feel Loss of Canadian Shoppers, Tourists, and Friends

FREDERICTON—The COVID-19 pandemic has put cross-border shopping trips and vacations on hold since March, and many American businesses along the border say they miss both the revenue and the familiar Canadian faces.

Bill Kilby, manager of Hardwicks Country Store in Calais, Maine, has seen a dramatic 90 percent loss in revenue and had to lay off 10 employees.

“I would buy $1,500 wholesale of milk a week from two different dairies, and now Im lucky to squeeze out a $100 order every two weeks,” Kilby said in a recent interview.

Kilby operates the store, an attached duty-free shop and two gas stations. The duty-free shop and one of the gas stations are temporarily closed, and the store and other gas pumps are being operated with reduced hours.

“Our customers are 90 percent Canadian, and the numbers are showing that out to be true,” he said.

His businesses are located just metres away from the border crossing with St. Stephen, N.B.

Kilby said that after 37 years on the job he has come to know customers by name, along with their children and grandchildren.

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Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont., on March 21, 2020. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

He said many families straddle the international border, and the pandemic restrictions are keeping them apart.

“Here most people are half-Canadian or half-American and have family members on both sides of the border. Thats why we get along so well,” he said.

Jane Torres, executive director of the St. Croix Valley Chamber of Commerce, said shes seeing the same upheaval further north in Maine.

“A lot of our relatives live just across the border. We cant get over to see them, and they cant get over to see us,” she said.

Torres said while no businesses in her community of Houlton, west of Woodstock, N.B., have been forced to close, grocery stores and gas stations are suffering.

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 21 due to COVID-19.

Businesses in upper New York State are also feeling the loss of Canadians from Quebec and Ontario who cross the border to shop and vacation.

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U.S. Customs officers stand beside a sign saying that the US border is closed at the US-Canada border in Lansdowne, Ontario, on March 22, 2020. (Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images)

“We depend on our friends and neighbours to the north a lot,” said Billy Jones, member of the New York State Assembly for the area that includes Plattsburgh, N.Y.

“Ive talked to some campground owners that are at 10 percent capacity. Close to 90 percent would be Canadians who come down here,” Jones said. “A lot of people from Canada have second homes here, and camps along our lakes.”

Jones said there are many businesses in his area that have yet to reopen, but those that have are feeling the absence of Canadians.

“It is having a big impact,” he said. “I think it makRead More – Source