As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau teases the next step in reopening the Canada-U.S. border, business owners are preparing for how they’ll be impacted.
For four years now, Doug Harper has owned and operated a pet store in the New Brunswick border town of St. Stephen.
The town’s proximity to Calais, Maine means, when there isn’t a pandemic going on, residents on either side often hop the border while running errands.
He says closing that international border has actually benefited his shop.
“Honestly, it’s been keeping a lot more people local,” he says.
St. Stephen doesn’t have much in terms of big-box stores, so the average resident looking for items like dog food or a water bottle for a rabbit cage would often opt to cross the border into Maine and hit up Walmart.
With that option off the table and the nearest Canadian competitor 100 km away in Saint John, Harper’s actually seen something of a business boom.
“It’s been very beneficial for our business and we just hope it stays the same when the border opens back up,” says Harper
Trudeau told the country’s premiers in a Thursday night conference call that the border could start allowing fully-vaccinated American’s cross for non-essential reasons by mid-August.
This comes after Canada started letting fully-vaccinated citizens and permanent residents cross without isolation July 5.
Businesses elsewhere in St. Stephen say they’re counting the days to that mid-August goal, eager to see some familiar faces from the United States.
Lian Goodall owns Puny Human, a shop in town that sells comics, trading cards and all things “geek”.
She says that niche would often bring interested American parties over — whom she hasn’t seen since everything shut down.
“We really miss some of our special customers,” she says.
“There will be some hard things for us. People will be running across the border to Walmart for things we might normally have sold to them, but it’ll even out in the end, right?”
Harper knows St. Stephen’s pandemic bubble couldn’t last forever and agrees with getting traffic moving across the bridge again, but hopes some of those who have come to rely on his shop keep coming back.
“I know it’s going to affect my business, but I hope my clients stay loyal for what I’ve done for them through the pandemic,” he says.
“Because if they don’t stay loyal to us when the border opens unfortunately next time this happens we won’t be around here.”