Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Closed Canadian border leaves U.S. town’s only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s so easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton, resident of Point Roberts, Wash.

The sole grocery store in a U.S. community only accessible by British Columbian land will close in a few weeks if Point Roberts’ border does not reopen.

Owner Ali Hayton of Point Roberts Marketplace said unless Canadians can start coming back to the landlocked community and her store — its doors will close by July 15.

Since non-essential travel restrictions went into effect in March 2020, Hayton has had to fork the bill to provide essentials to the community without turning a profit.

“The losses have been astronomic,” Hayton told Black Press Media. “At this point, I can’t keep losing $30,000 a month and be able to sustain that.”

Extended closure a ‘kick in the gut’

On Friday, the federal government extended the border closure another month, until July 21.

That news was a “kick in the gut,” says Hayton, who had been counting on either a travel exemption for the Washington state pene-exclave or a full-scale border reopening.

“There’s no reason our border in particular needs to be closed with COVID-19 vaccination rates as high as they are,” said Hayton.

“Eighty-five per cent of people in Point Roberts are vaccinated. Our fire chief is willing and able to vaccinate any Canadian that comes down and needs their vaccination.”

RELATED: U.S.-Canada border closure hurts isolated Washington state town

Prior to the border’s closure, Hayton typically saw 8,000 customers frequent her establishment each week of the summer, compared to 2,000 weekly shoppers in the winter.

In the past 15 months, Hayton said the store hasn’t once logged 1,800 customers a week.

The owner has laid off all her part-time staff and is struggling to employ her 10 full-time employees, who depend on their jobs for both income and health benefits.

Pleading for an exemption

“I need the government to help me start to feed and supply people or a border exception to help us get through this,” Hayton said.

“Closing would be devastating for a lot of people. They would have to be allowed into Canada to get fresh produce or take a two-hour ferry into Bellingham.”

Hayton is still hoping the U.S. government will grant Point Roberts, whose community relies heavily on Canadian tourism, an exemption.

“We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s so easy to forget we’re here.”

RELATED: U.S. border town offering its leftover COVID-19 vaccines to B.C.



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

border agencyCanadaCoronavirusUnited States