Ali Hayton, owner of Point Roberts International Marketplace, went through a difficult 2021.
When she last spoke to The Shelby Report in April of that year, she had lost a substantial amount of foot traffic and revenue due to the Canada-U.S. border closure that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Point Roberts, a small town near Blaine, Washington, is in a pene-exclave. Although on U.S. soil, residents and visitors must cross into Canada and back to reach it. The only grocery store in the town, the market had taken a substantial hit due to the border closure and inability of U.S. and Canada to come to an agreement.
However, the situation has improved since last April, Hayton said. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee even called Hayton, letting her know the state wanted to help and offering a “strategic fund” of $100,000. That helped keep Hayton’s staff employed and the store open for the summer.
Since then, Point Roberts has received designation as a unique location. And the border received an exemption in November.
“People from Point Roberts could finally leave and go visit the United States. And they could go into Canada for essential purposes. After we got that border exemption…things kind of got better,” Hayton said.
For some time afterward, there were testing requirements. However, that has since been removed and people entering have to show a proof of vaccination and answer a questionnaire.
Hayton’s major issue currently is labor. To be fully staffed, she’d have about 20 to 25 employees. When speaking to The Shelby Report during the week of April 25, she had 10.
Hayton has been putting in several hours a day in the store deli. On top of that, she drives to her other store, Red Apple Market in Mt. Vernon, Washington, to manage it as well.
“I am operating at very reduced hours because I don’t have the bodies to work,” she said. “Point Roberts used to have an exemption, and we had a specialized [H-2B] visa to allow Canadians to work in Point Roberts because most of our community is retired. So I could double my workforce tomorrow if I had eligible people.”
The Point Roberts grocer is working with an attorney and U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene to get the store a visa status in order to hire Canadian workers.
She added that the community has been supportive of the business.
“We’ve got great customers and my crew that I do have is fabulous. They’re exhausted…but they’re hanging in there and hoping to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”
For more information, visit pointrobertsmarketplace.com.
To view The Shelby Report’s first discussion with Hayton, click here.
Article written by Eric Pereira / content creator.