Stewart’s gift shop, which attracts tourists with its dichroic glass jewelry and Locally made fudge, closed when the border closed in March 2020 and has not been opened since. The same was true of Hyder’s other businesses – two hotels, two restaurants, and a few other gift shops.
There are three other “enclaves” like Hyder along the border – two small, sparsely populated towns in the United States and one in Canada – that depend heavily on an open border for doing business, going to school, and even. grocery shopping.
But when the border closed at the start of the pandemic, residents of the enclaves had to figure out how to stay afloat with their main source of business – tourism – cut off.
With vaccination rates on the rise in the United States and Canada, residents were hoping border restrictions would be lifted on June 21 – offering the possibility of a semi-normal summer season. But on June 18, the Canadian government announced that the restrictions would remain in place until at least July 21, a move that fueled frustration in both countries.
As signs point to an easing of border restrictions later this month, Hyder’s businesses contemplate another ‘lost summer’ as the reopening would be too late in the season to be profitable, the president said. from the Hyder Community Association, Paul Larkin.
Larkin added that the extended shutdown could potentially force some companies to change hands or shut down permanently.
“Even if the border opens, it will not be saved this summer… It has been almost two summers in a row that they have been refused to continue their activities as usual,” he said.
Since Hyder does not have a grocery store in town, residents are allowed to cross the border to Stewart, BC, for the most part only. But with tourists and their Canadian neighbors banned from visiting Hyder, the unincorporated community’s own businesses, including Stewart’s gift shop, have missed out on what now looks like two summer seasons.
“Who would travel? We will not have young people. We might have seniors who weren’t so affected by this, ”said Stewart. “But I think most of us just say, ‘Well, there’s always next year. “”
More than a thousand miles away, in Northwest Angle, Minnesota, another enclave along the border, the business of resort owner Paul Colson is also struggling to stay afloat amid the extensive restrictions.
Northwest Angle, which is surrounded by Canada on three sides with a body of water to the south, is only connected to the United States by a road that crosses Manitoba. Similar to Hyder, residents of the Angle can cross the border for necessities, but restrictions have largely prevented tourists from visiting – essentially breaking down businesses in the area.
Colson’s fishing station has remained open despite the border being closed, but he said business was down 87% last summer, which is typically its busiest season. When the border did not open as planned on June 21, frustration within the community intensified.
“I watch my business collapse. We are a fourth generation, ”said Colson. “It’s… mentally, it’s very difficult. “
Since both governments renew border restrictions on a monthly basis rather than having a fixed end date for the closure, Colson said it was nearly impossible to create a business model or predict the future.
“If you had told me that the border would have been closed for a year, I could have done things totally differently… But we are doing it in 30-day increments,” he said.
In Point Roberts, Washington, an enclave on a peninsula just south of Vancouver but jutting into U.S. territory, businesses are down 90%, said Brian Calder, chairman of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce. .
“When they lock us up, they lock us up. We are a ghost town. We are completely dependent on Canada for economic health and tourism, and that has stopped for 15 months, which is devastating for us, ”Calder said.
On what will happen on July 21, when the two governments renew or end border restrictions, residents of the enclaves have stopped making predictions after being “blinded” by the June 21 extension.
“The only person who knows is [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau, ”said Stewart, the owner of the Hyder gift shop.