Point Roberts grocery store owner says not opening border to Canadians could be final blow for her business

Ali Hayton is feeling frustrated, disappointed, and most of all, worried.

The owner of Point Roberts’ only grocery store, the International Marketplace, has been hanging on by a thread since the U.S. exclave in Washington State, which borders the Metro Vancouver city of Tsawwassen, was virtually cut-off some 16 months ago.

And Hayton says Ottawa’s announcement to allow fully-vaccinated Americans to enter Canada starting August 9th, without a matching announcement or plan from Washington, has added a new level of confusion.

“If we don’t get that reciprocal Canadian influx, what was devastating, is going to be just absolutely fatal,” Hayton said.

She added that she won’t blame her own customers, who she described as “patient” and “supportive,” one bit for finally getting out of tiny Point Roberts, even if there’s absolutely no one to replace them.

It was just over 10 days ago when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee visited the point, and promised Hayton some state funding that could help buy the business a little extra time.

And while Hayton said she’s grateful, she’s concerned about the silence she’s now hearing around whether the U.S. plans to extend its land border closure to non-essential travel.

It’s currently set to expire Wednesday at 11:59PM.

And no one has given her a clue, she said, one way or the other:

“The fact that nobody’s talking about it, it’s scary,” Hayton said.

While U.S. President Biden spoke after a cabinet meeting Tuesday, he didn’t address the border closure, and didn’t take questions, though on Monday his press secretary indicated the decision to extend the closure or not would be made based on the science.

An email Tuesday to Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive director of communications wasn’t returned.

Nick Martin, the communications director for U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, who represents Point Roberts, told CTV News DelBene “believes that the U.S. should take reciprocal action,” and is now “awaiting the American government’s decision.”

Brant Baron, the owner of Mail Boxes International in Blaine, Washington, is also waiting for his Canadian regulars to help clear the backlog of packages, currently some 20,000 give or take.

And while Baron’s managed to pivot his business and finally become profitable during the pandemic by growing his fulfillment operation, he believes, like Ali Hayton, that the time has come to reopen.

“This is affecting people in a whole lot of different ways,” Baron said.

“I think we’re at a point now where I think we can safely open - and I would love to see that happen,” he added.

Hayton was less circumspect:

“If Joe (Biden) or Justin (Trudeau), either one, were taking $30,000 out of their wallet every month to help subsidize the food needs of one small community, I guarantee to you this border would have been open a long time ago,” she said.