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Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton
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

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

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

Since travel restrictions went into effect, Hayton has footed the bill to provide essentials to the community without turning a profit.

“Fifteen months of losses have been astronomic,” Hayton told Black Press Media. “I can’t keep losing $30,000 a month.”

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

Extended closure a ‘kick in the gut’

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

That news was a “kick in the gut,” said 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.”

Hayton once saw 8,000 customers frequent her establishment during summer weeks. However, in the past 15 months, Hayton said the store hasn’t once logged 1,800 customers in that time span.

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

Pleading for an exemption

“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 said.

“I need the government to help me start to feed and supply people or a border exception.”

The owner is still hoping the U.S. government will grant Point Roberts, whose community relies heavily on revenue from Canadian tourists, an exemption.

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

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

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