THUNDER BAY — Parcels arriving at Ryden’s Border Store near the Pigeon River border crossing slowed down significantly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic but they never completely stopped.
Lori (Sam) Boomer, owner of the northern Minnesota border store less than an hour’s drive south of Thunder Bay, Ont., noticed a pattern that has been going on for several months.
The government always advised the border would remain closed until the 21st of the month, at which time they would re-evaluate the COVID-19 situation and make a decision on opening the borders.
“Everybody thought, ‘Oh, there’s hope,’ so people would place online orders and we would always see an up-tick of parcel arrivals a week before the 21st of each month, and then it would kind of die off again,” said Boomer.
As parcels arrived, two companies were able to pick them up from Ryden’s for transport across the border into Canada which alleviated some stress. Canadian businesses who were eligible cross over to Ryden’s, helping with space issues when they removed their large skids of items.
“Right now our shelves are really full so it’s literally a game of Tetris every day, trying to squeeze the boxes in so we can maximize the storage,” says Boomer. “Our two garages are filled and we are (storing parcels) in our closed motel, which is where all the overflow goes.”
With hopes that the U.S. government opens the border to Canadian citizens after Aug. 21, Boomer feels the “first two weeks are going to be chaos.”
“Just be patient. If you think about it, we are busy and everybody has lots of packages and we will have to go to all the (storage) locations to get them. If they can just be patient and we will do the best we can,” she said. “It will be like Christmas on steroids for two weeks . . . because everybody knows what Christmas is like and I think it will be that ramped up.”
The border opening announcement by Canada has Boomer stumped as to why the U.S. wouldn’t follow suit.
“For the past three or four months, or more, the U.S. has been asking, ‘Canada, can we open?’ and Canada says, ‘No,’” she said. “And now Canada opens and asks, ‘U.S. will you open?’ and the U.S. says ‘no.’ We were shocked when the U.S. didn’t open with Canada on the ninth.”
The pandemic has been hard for Ryden’s with a business loss of 90 per cent. Boomer says the only business they received was from U.S. visitors to Grand Portage State Park, which includes High Falls.
She says there is no fear of the virus evident in the area, there are no masks required and most of the community has been vaccinated. Also, there “really is no concern around the area of the Delta variant” and she surmised that they are just ready to move on.
Like other Minnesota businesses along Lake Superior’s north shore, the store is experiencing a small worker shortage and Boomer says they will do the best that they can with their staff.
Meanwhile, road crews who are resurfacing the highway in the area also had an impact on Ryden’s.
“It affected us last year because they were right here in front of us. No body gets out of line because they are following the pilot car through the construction zone,” she said.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, first COVID and now construction. . . . But now the work is past Grand Portage. At least they are not right in front of me anymore and when you guys come down, it’s gong to be nice.”
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal