The ongoing closure of the Canada-U.S. border has crushed Port Huron-based parcel pick-up outlets that rely on Sarnia-Lambton residents for business.
“It got to the point where we couldn’t really put anything more on the shelf,” said Frank Helwig, owner of CanAm Parcel.
“There’s still no (border) reopening day; they just keep extending it days at a time.”
Many Sarnia-area residents use parcel-receiving companies in Port Huron to skirt costly shipping and brokerage fees on products shipped to Canada from the U.S.
It’s a niche business found in many U.S. border towns. The companies accept a package on behalf of the Canadian buyer, and charge $3 to $5 when it’s picked up.
The border was closed in March to control the spread of COVID-19 and the closure has been extended several times. “We have committed to keeping Canadians safe and we keep extending the border closures because the States is not in a place where we would feel comfortable reopening those borders,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week.
Helwig, who operates CanAm out of his Lapeer Road auto dealership, estimates his parcel service revenue is down 95%. Just a handful of essential workers and truck drivers still come for packages, he said.
“If not for (the car dealership) we wouldn’t be in business.”
He has advised some customers to consider making an insurance claim on their parcels, because he doesn’t know how long he can keep them.
Down the road at SCC Parcel Pickup LLC, manager Jackie Harman said all but one staff member was laid off after the border closed. Hundreds of packages have piled up, spilling into extra space reserved for the Christmas rush of deliveries, she said.
“We own our building so we’re lucky in that respect,” Harman said. “We’ll continue to be here to accept parcels.”
Thanks to a U.S. government PPE loan they’ve begun to rehire staff, she said.
“We are getting by, and just waiting very impatiently for the border to re-open,” she added with a laugh.
When 250 packages piled up at Port Huron Parcel Pickup, owner Todd Hale started offering to re-ship them to their Canadian destinations, he said.
“Of course it’s very expensive. It can be,” he said. “I usually recommend that if you don’t need it, just leave it here.”
All the parcel companies The Journal contacted have waived late pick-up fees.