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Border business still struggling, but optimistically looking toward the future

On Dec. 17, the Canadian government announced the reinstatement of the molecular testing requirement for Canadians, which then went into effect on Dec. 21. In the three weeks without the restriction, Mike’s Parcel was able to make a profit instead of just surviving.

Mike's Parcel Pickup.jpeg
Vanessa (left) and Mason Peters own Mike's Parcel.
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PEMBINA, N.D. — When Canada allowed its citizens to cross the border again without a specific COVID-19 test in early December, Mike’s Parcel in Pembina finally felt the relief it so desperately needed — for three weeks.

On Dec. 17, the Canadian government announced the reinstatement of the molecular testing requirement for Canadians, which then went into effect on Dec. 21. In the three weeks without the restriction, Mike’s Parcel was able to make a profit instead of just surviving.

“When they lifted the PCR test requirement, then, I mean, it was just drop-dead busy for us for about three weeks,” Mike’s Parcel Co-Owner Mason Peters said. “And then on Dec. 21, for whatever reasons they cited, they reinstated the mandatory PCR test to return home… So we had about three weeks where we really were just, you know, kind of love in life and experiencing that return to normal business. And then Dec. 21, it kind of got cut off again with that mandatory PCR test.”

Making negative PCR tests a necessity to get across the border induced a chilling effect on those who crossed the border for leisure activities.

“That is not technically a closed border, but effectively it is,” Peters said.

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Is there an end in sight?

Canadian Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault said in a Dec. 28 CBC report Canadian tourism businesses may need to rely on domestic travelers until the third quarter of 2022. However, that is anything but set in stone.

Mike’s Parcel in Pembina, North Dakota, provides a simple, yet convenient service - Canadians buy items from America and ship them to the store instead of paying for international shipping. Then, they drive across the border and pick them up for a fee.

Mike's Parcel Pickup 2.jpeg
Vanessa (left) and Mason Peters own Mike's Parcel.

Peters said Mike’s Parcel, like many other businesses along the border, uniquely depend on traffic being able to flow to and from each side of the Canadian border. The lives of those on each side of the border have been interrupted for two years, and communities, such as the one Peters lives in, have been physically divided.

“Small communities along the border, those within a mile or two of the border on either side, over the history of our countries, they've become these intermingled groups, these intermingled communities,” Peters said. “Kids take music lessons or swimming lessons on one side of the border, and people buy groceries on the other side of the border. There's this intermingling, and then it seems like it's the forgotten devastation that this border closure and this this restrictive requirement has created.”

Peters said with the one-size-fits-all approach to the border, it has left businesses border towns such as Pembina out to dry. Without allowances for that kind of short-term travel, the community, and its businesses, have suffered.

“There's never been any kind of window that said, ‘Hey, if you're going for less than 24 hours, (or) if you're just going to be across the border for two or three hours, or whatever, there should be there can be an opportunity for this kind of back and forth life,’” Peters said. “It's just been this one-size-fits-all, the border’s shut, and can't cross idea, which has completely isolated these communities coast to coast and the businesses that depend on that intermingling.”

Peters said there is no CARES Act money he knows of that could help Mike’s Parcel’s current situation, but he said it has received funding in the past, which helped keep the business afloat during the pandemic.

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“We've been very thankful,” Peters said. “The state of North Dakota has been amazing. I can say that on the record — the state of North Dakota has been amazing in the support we've had.”

As for the future, Peters is optimistic due to the three weeks of cash flow before PCR tests were reinstated, which allowed the business to alleviate some of its financial stress. All he can do is wait.

“As far as looking forward, we're kind of in the same spot as we were back then, because now we still don't know when they're going to change their policy,” Peters said. “We’re not sure when there's going to be a break in policy or a pivot in policy that will kind of allow things to return a little.”

Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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