Some Michigan businesses see a rush of cross-border travellers

A couple of Michigan hot spots for Canadians have been delighted to see their northern neighbours return.

25,000 parcels have been waiting at a popular mailbox company, with lines out the door

A welcome sign posted in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Michael Zehnder, general manager at Bavarian Inn Lodge, said they've had numerous calls from Canadians booking visits. Meanwhile Ryan Hill, owner of Detroit Mailbox, said he's had Canadian customers lined up out the door for four days, since the PCR test was dropped for short cross-border trips. (Peter Duck/CBC)

Canadians have been lined up out the door for the past few days at Detroit Mailbox to pick up packages they've ordered over the course of the pandemic, but have not been able to cross the border to collect.

The land border between the U.S. and Canada has been open for a few weeks to fully-vaccinated Canadian travellers, and since Tuesday they've been able to cross for short trips without needing a negative PCR test to reenter Canada.  

"It's chaos. I'll tell you that," said Ryan Hill, owner of Detroit Mailbox. "It's good. We needed it. We've been out of business the last 19 months essentially, even though the doors were open." 

Hill estimates the company has been holding about 25,000 packages that people have ordered, but were unable to pick up over the last 20 months. Now, packages are coming in as fast as they're going out. 

"The first day, it wasn't that busy, to be honest with you. I think people were a little skittish and scared," he said. 

"I know a lot of my customers are concerned this new variant's gonna shut down the border, so I think that's kind of giving them some urgency to cross, but I'm hoping they keep everything open."

Detroit Mailbox is a business which receives and stores packages for mostly Canadian customers. Owner Ryan Hill estimates about 25,000 packages have been sitting on the shelves due to pandemic border restrictions. (Submitted by Ryan Hill)

While the U.S. confirmed its first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in a traveller who arrived in San Francisco from South Africa on Nov. 22. — so far there have been no changes to the rules implemented at land borders by either governments. 

However, beginning Monday, the U.S. is making it mandatory for Canadians and other foreign visitors who arrive by air to get a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their departure, regardless of their vaccination status, as part of a pandemic battle plan for the winter months.

"I'm hoping they keep the PCR test for short visits off the table. We're back to normal now. I think in the new year, it'll be a good indication once the Christmas shopping kind of dies down on where we're at," said Hill. 

Over in Frankenmuth, Michigan, Michael Zehnder said he's had numerous calls from Canadians looking to visit the Bavarian Inn Lodge. 

"Over the past few days, we've had an increase in calls, and the guests are calling from Canada," said Zehnder, who is general manager of the inn. 

"We are so excited to have our Canadian visitors again." 

The covered bridge Frankenmuth, Michigan, is frequented for photos. (Peter Duck/CBC)

Canadians have questions about what kind of services are available and what they can expect while visiting, said Zehnder. 

Ontario and Michigan have very different public health measures when it comes to battling COVID-19. For example, mask wearing in Michigan is a "preference" while dining and shopping, said Zehnder.

But the business is taking precautions to keep people safe, like encouraging physical distancing, hand washing, and heightening the cleaning routines already in place. 

"We have not seen our Canadian friends in quite some time. It is noticeable," he said.

"Frankenmuth is very blessed to be so close to our neighbours in Canada, because when you think about it, we're only about an hour and a half away, 90 miles or so to Sarnia and Windsor."

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