Owner of Point Roberts’ only grocery store says she can’t afford to stay open

Jun 23, 2021, 4:34 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm
grocery store...
(File photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(File photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The owner of Point Roberts’ only grocery store says she will be forced to close next month if Canada and the U.S. don’t ease border restrictions.

Canada to ease some restrictions, but U.S./Canada border still closed

Point Roberts, which sits south of Vancouver in the Lily Point Marine Reserve, is officially part of the U.S., but you have to go through Canada to gain access. The only other way would be a two-hour boat ride from Bellingham.

Ali Hayton, the owner of the Point Roberts International Marketplace, told KIRO Radio that she “just kind of lost it” when she found out the border closure was extended until at least July 21.

Hayton, who opened the store in 1998, has been operating at a loss for months, and with only half of her staff. She plans to close by July 15.

“I have been subsidizing this for 15 months and I can’t do it anymore,” Hayton said. “I posted a 6-figure loss for 2020, first time ever I’ve posted any kind of loss. And so far, in 2021, I would say on average about $30,000 a month.”

Canadians are still not allowed to visit Point Roberts to shop. When Hayton closes, there will be no access to fresh produce, meat, and dry goods. There are other U.S. communities in similar situations, but they’ve been given exemptions. Not at Point Roberts.

“They said no because they have access to all of the essentials to daily living,” Hayton explained. “And that’s just because my store is there.”

Hayton stayed open because some residents can’t easily travel, but she’s said she’s not getting any help.

“We got two PPP loans, but we got excluded from unemployment release because we’re a grocery store. We’ve been excluded from grant money because we had too much money pre-pandemic.”

If she closes?

“My guess is that Canada would have to let them in,” she said. “They can’t starve them to death.”

Save on Foods and Thrifty Foods is located about 1.5 miles across the border into Canada.

Washington Rep. Suzan Delbene sent a letter to the US Secretary of State, calling for an immediate exemption for the small community.

The Point Roberts Fire Chief warns of an impending “humanitarian crisis.”

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Owner of Point Roberts’ only grocery store says she can’t afford to stay open