A man walks past a shuttered clothing store in the border town of Nogales, Arizona on March 15, 2021. The store has been in business for nearly half a century but closed because of the pandemic for almost a year, with its main customer base, Mexican day-trippers, largely unable to come to the U.S. and shop. (AP Photo/Suman Naishadham)

A man walks past a shuttered clothing store in the border town of Nogales, Arizona on March 15, 2021. The store has been in business for nearly half a century but closed because of the pandemic for almost a year, with its main customer base, Mexican day-trippers, largely unable to come to the U.S. and shop. (AP Photo/Suman Naishadham)

U.S. businesses near border struggle with boundaries’ closure

Restrictions on nonessential travel were put in place a year ago to curb the spread of the virus

Evan Kory started calling brides in Mexico’s northern Sonora state last March, asking if they wanted to get their wedding gowns from his Arizona store just before the U.S. closed its borders with Mexico and Canada because of the coronavirus.

His namesake shop in the border town of Nogales was popular among brides-to-be in northern Sonora for its large, affordable inventory, said Kory, the third-generation proprietor. Located steps from the border fence, Kory’s has been in business for half a century but has been closed for a year because of the pandemic, with its main customer base — Mexican day-trippers — largely unable to come to the U.S. and shop.

Some 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometres) north, Roxie Pelton in the border town of Oroville, Washington, has been in a similar pinch. Business at her shipping and receiving store is down 82% from a year ago because most of the Canadians who typically send their online orders to her shop haven’t been able to drive across the border.

Last summer, the 72-year-old let two employees go and now works alone.

“I’ve gotten by this far, and I’m just praying that I can hold until the border opens up,” Pelton said last month.

In border towns across the U.S., small businesses are reeling from the economic fallout of the partial closure of North America’s international boundaries. Restrictions on nonessential travel were put in place a year ago to curb the spread of the virus and have been extended almost every month since, with exceptions for trade, trucking and critical supply chains.

Small businesses, residents and local chambers of commerce say the financial toll has been steep, as have the disruptions to life in communities where it’s common to shop, work and sleep in two different countries.

“Border communities are those that rely — economically, socially, and yes, health wise — on the daily and essential travel of tourist visa holders,” the presidents of 10 chambers of commerce in Arizona, Texas and California border cities wrote in a letter last month to the Homeland Security and Transportation departments. It asked the government to allow visitors with U.S. tourist visas to cross into their states.

As more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 and infection rates fall, many hope the restrictions will soon be eased.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, asked the Biden administration last month to reconsider U.S.-Canada border restrictions, arguing “common-sense exceptions” like family visits or daily commerce should be made for border towns where infection rates were low.

However, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the U.S., Mexico and Canada agreed to extend border restrictions on nonessential travel through April 21.

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona has introduced a bill to provide small businesses within 25 miles (40 kilometres) of a U.S. border with loans of up to $500,000 or grants of $10,000.

“Cross-border traffic is the lifeblood of their economy,” Grijalva said. “And it’s the people that walk over, the people that come to do retail shopping.”

Visitors from Mexico contribute an estimated 60% to 70% of sales tax revenue in Arizona border communities, according to the Arizona-Mexico Commission, which promotes trade and tourism.

In Texas, border cities have faced higher unemployment rates during the pandemic than the state average, though in some places, that had already been the case.

Jesus Cañas, a business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said Texas border economies appear to have fared better than many predicted a year ago. In border cities like Brownsville, Laredo and El Paso, January’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of 9.5%, 8.9% and 7.4%, respectively, were close enough to the state’s rate of 7.3% to suggest the restrictions have had less impact on larger, more diversified border economies than elsewhere.

“What I have seen over the years is that the border adjusts to these shocks in a very peculiar way,” Cañas said.

In Nogales, the economic wear from nearly 12 months of a partially shut border is easy to spot in the historic downtown.

Bargain clothing stores, money exchanges, secondhand shops and retailers selling plastic knickknacks within walking distance of the border were closed. Many storefronts were boarded up.

?Olivia Ainza-Kramer, president of the Nogales Chamber of Commerce, said the loss in revenue from the drop in Mexican shoppers over the past year has been felt most acutely by businesses closest to the border that tend to be family-owned and cater to pedestrian shoppers.

Further north, big-box retailers and other stores have fared a little better because they’re visited by residents of the town of 20,000, she said.

Kory, who owns the bridal shop, saw the contrast up close. His family has three clothing stores in Nogales. Two are steps from the U.S.-Mexico port of entry — and both closed — while a third is about 4 miles (6 kilometres) from the border.

Kory said his family has managed to keep the third store open, albeit sales are down 75% to 80% from pre-pandemic levels. Most of the customers are Nogales locals, he said.

“We’ve seen the evolution at the international border, you know, from the ’40s … in my family,” he said. “This is the first time that we’ve had a closure.”

Kory said the business has kept just four of its usual 27 employees. But based on conversations with customers in Mexico, he’s confident that once restrictions are lifted, sales will be strong enough to rehire all those workers.

“That is the plan,” Kory said, “but we can’t do it until until our customers are allowed to cross.”

READ MORE: Helping Canada reach vaccine ‘parity’ critical to reopening border: U.S. congressman

___

Rathke reported from Marshfield, Vermont.

Suman Naishadham And Lisa Rathke, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

CoronavirusUSA

Just Posted

Tents set up under the Trail Skywalk earlier this spring. Photo: Trail Times
Message from Concerned Trail Citizens: ‘A Necessary Response’

” … if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.”

“Think on These Things” is a column written by retired Creston pastor Ian Cotton. (File photo)
Think on These Things: Everyone is Invited

“Tell them there is healing, cleansing for every soul…”

Swiss guard at Vatican City. The Pontifical Swiss Guard is a minor armed forces and honour guards unit maintained by the Holy See that protects the Pope and the Apostolic Palace, serving as the de facto military of Vatican City. Photo: Etienne Girardet on Unsplash
News from The Vatican

Pope Francis issued a law decreeing that women can be installed in the lay ministries of lectors

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Student-nurse Kendra Waterstreet administers the Pfizer vaccine to Litia Fleming at the Waneta Plaza vaccination clinic in the old Zellers buiding. Photo: Jim Bailey
Trail vaccination clinic readies for adults age 40+

B.C.’s state of emergency is extended through the end of day on May 25

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Most Read