Washington border towns eager for Canadian customers

For the first time since the pandemic started, Americans were finally allowed to cross the international border into Canada as long as they have been vaccinated.

But that warm welcome is not being felt in return for Canadians who wish to travel south in Washington.

Business owners in Blaine told Q13 News that the streets would normally be packed with vehicles displaying Canadian license plates. Instead, the town by and large did not see any non-essential Canadian travelers only hours after Americans were invited to once again visit their northern neighbors.

"It did feel like my business was stripped from me," said Brant Baron, owner of Mail Boxes International. 

Packages kept rolling in at Baron's businesses, and have been piling up since the pandemic started. Most of the boxes are destined for British Columbia, but their final destination has been out of reach. 

Baron says his operation has been ongoing since the early 1990s, and they aim to help Canadians save money on international shipping costs. However, the pandemic turned his business into a storage facility ever since customers could no longer come in to pick up their deliveries. 

The slowdown meant Baron had to downsize staff and scramble to make up revenue where he could, all while packages kept coming. 

The streets of Blaine used to be filled with people from Canada and their absence has already forced some businesses to close.

RELATED: Border reopening: Canada travel requirements for fully-vaccinated Americans

"We’ve been held hostage in a sense," said Gary Slavin, who owns the restaurant Rustic Fork.

He says the partial border opening is a step in the right direction, but many local Blaine businesses need Canadians for their bottom line. 

Meanwhile, another pandemic crisis forced Slavin to make even harder choices as a shortage of job applicants mean operating hours are slim. 

"We’ve shut down lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," he said. "Until we get more cooks, we’re not going to be able to open up anymore."

Business owners who spoke with Q13 News said they credited locals for keeping them afloat, but they also need Canadians to visit.

The border closure on the American side continues until at least Aug. 21. 

President Joe Biden’s administration is putting together a phased reopening plan that will require everyone entering the United States to be vaccinated.

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