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

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 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.

Kilby says that after 37 years on the job, he knows many Canadian customers and their children and grandchildren by name.

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Billy Jones, member of the New York State Assembly for the area that includes Plattsburgh, N.Y., says the lack of Canadians means that some area campgrounds are at just 10 per cent capacity.

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He says the border closure is resulting in a new appreciation for Canadians and what they mean to the local economy.

Read more: U.S.-Canada border closure brings challenges, opportunities for St. Stephen, N.B.

Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership says she worries a prolonged closure will prompt Canadians to change their habits and find new places to shop and vacation.

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

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2020.

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