The COVID-19 pandemic has meant the Canada - U.S. border has been closed to regular cross-border shopping trips and vacations since May, and many American businesses near the border say they miss both the revenues and the Canadians. A Canada-U.S. border marker is seen in Surrey, B.C., as people gather at Peace Arch Historical State Park in Blaine, Wash., Sunday, July 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant the Canada - U.S. border has been closed to regular cross-border shopping trips and vacations since May, and many American businesses near the border say they miss both the revenues and the Canadians. A Canada-U.S. border marker is seen in Surrey, B.C., as people gather at Peace Arch Historical State Park in Blaine, Wash., Sunday, July 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

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 Hardwick’s Country Store in Calais, Maine, has seen a dramatic 90 per cent 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 I’m 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 per cent 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.

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. That’s why we get along so well,” he said.

READ MORE: Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

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

“A lot of our relatives live just across the border. We can’t get over to see them, and they can’t 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.

“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.

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

READ MORE: Two U.S. boaters fined after B.C. RCMP find they broke COVID rules in Canadian waters

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 makes us appreciate more our relationship with Canada and makes us appreciate what that business does for our economy.”

For Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership —a regional chamber of commerce for the Buffalo area — many of the complaints she’s hearing are from Americans who want to travel to Canada.

“We have a lot of Americans who own property in Canada, that do business in Canada and have friends in Canada. The uncertainty about not being able to cross has been troubling to us,” she said.

Gallagher said much of the Canadian traffic in her area is for Sabres hockey and Bills football games. With local matches on hold, even the American fans who used to head to Buffalo are no longer coming.

She worries that if the border remains closed much longer, Canadians who often visited the United States will find other places to go.

“We are disrupting people’s habits so greatly that they are going to form new habits,” she said. “Those new habits for Canadians are probably going to mean fewer trips to the U.S. I do worry about the long-term impacts.”

The border is currently closed until Aug. 21 for all but essential travel.

“The public sentiment towards Americans has become so negative, and I do think it will be a long time before the border is fully reopened,” Gallagher said. ”That just makes me really sad.”

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Paddlewheel Park off Okanagan Landing Road, Vernon. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon council looks to address parking shortage at Paddlewheel Park

City staff are looking into short, medium and long-term overflow parking options

(GVMA)
WATCH: A Royal procession through Vernon, 1959

Prince Philip, who died April 9 at 99, visited Vernon on a tour of Canada in 1959

The West Kelowna Warriors defeated the Vernon Vipers 4-2 in BCHL Pod Season action Friday, April 9, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
West Kelowna Warriors end Vernon Vipers’ perfect start to Pod Season

The Warriors beat the Vipers 4-2 Friday afternoon

Plans are still up in the air for the 2021 Funtastic Slo-Pitch Society’s annual softball tournament and music festival after the 2020 event was cancelled by COVID-19. (Morning Star - file photo)
Raffle launched to keep Funtastic funds flowing to local sports groups

The raffle to fill the Funtastic Sports Society’s 2021 grant coffers runs until July 3

Highway 97A in Armstrong was closed in both directions Monday afternoon, just after 4 p.m., due to a serious accident at Rosedale Avenue. (Bob Dunbar photo)
No merge lanes needed on Armstrong’s Highway 97 access points: ministry

Transportation Ministry reviews accident reports, slope stability with city staff

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read