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Minnesota border towns feel impact of COVID-19 border closure with Canada

May 19, 2020 05:45AM ● By Editor

Watch the KSTP-TV Report here

Downtown International Falls   Photo: Alison Stewart 

By Eric Chaloux of KSTP-TV Eyewitness News - May 19, 2020

Minnesota’s border towns welcomed back American shoppers into their stores as COVID-19 restrictions were eased on Monday.

However, it was not their normal customer traffic due to the border closing.

The border between the U.S. and Canada remains closed to non-essential travel due to COVID-19.

“We’ve had a few customers, some good sales, I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Alison Stewart, who owns a clothing store in International Falls. 

Stewart said about 30% of past customers live across the border in the Ft. Frances area of Ontario. Those customers were unable to come to her shop's reopening. 

“They are very good customers," she said. "That’s going to affect my sales, you know, significantly."

Nearly 50%  of the region’s population live on the Canadian side of the Rainy River, according to International Falls officials.

Beyond the loss of the retail shopper, the Chamber of Commerce said the outdoor tourism businesses will also be hurt the longer the border stays closed.

“They’ve got a 5-month window to operate to really make those revenues to keep them really going throughout the year,” said Tricia Heibel, the Chamber of Commerce president. “So the deeper we get into the summer with these restrictions, the greater the impact that’s going to be on those businesses.”
“It’s that give and take opening our businesses back up but making sure they are safe,” International Falls Mayor Harley Droba said. “Our local sales tax is definitely affected by that because that’s a way we’re able to upgrade our infrastructure in our community. Without having those sales, it affects the city infrastructure as well.”

To watch the original story and see related stories, follow this link to the KSTP-TV website.

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