Ogdensburg, Prescott businesses eye return to normalcy

travel

Ever since the border reopened weeks ago, Brooke Rouse has watched a steady stream of Canadians cross into the United States looking to reunite with their homes, boats and campers that had been off limits to them through the pandemic.

As the tourism promotion director at the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce in Ogdensburg, she’s anxious to see all of those Canadians getting back to the region’s nearby airport, museum and shopping districts. Cross-border shoppers account for a sizable portion of the region’s economy.

“Ogdensburg is used to Canadians coming across the border to shop, so their absence was felt,” she said. “It’s nice to see Canadian plates again.”

After almost two years of closure, Canadians can travel to the U.S. with the reopening of the Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge. As traffic begins to resume, the businesses on both sides of the river are starting to see a return to life before the pandemic.

The Sherman Inn is located in the heart of Ogdensburg, just a couple of blocks from the St. Lawrence River. It’s also a short distance from the Ogdensburg Prescott International Bridge, which is about an hour’s drive from Ottawa. Originally built in 1885 as one of the region’s first elementary schools, Sherman Inn is now one of the only lodging options in Ogdensburg.

Co-owner Jim Reagan said Canadian travelers have always been a vital part of local business and tourism. Reagan estimated that Canadians made up 20 per cent of the Inn’s visitors pre-COVID-19.

“Since things have eased up, we have continued to see Canadians crossing both ways across the border,” said Reagan. “With the new 72-hour rule, we expect to see an increase because Canadians have always enjoyed coming to Ogdensburg to shop, buy gas and eat at our restaurants for an enjoyable mini-vacation.”

All travellers to Canada have been required to present proof of a molecular COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of crossing the land border or boarding a flight, regardless of vaccination status. As of Nov. 24, this test is no longer required for re-entry into Canada within 72 hours of departure, making short trips to places like Ogdensburg much more accessible. 

Katarina’s Coffee Shop sits on the Canadian side of the border in Prescott. Owner Nicole Hudson said that since the cafe opened in June 2020, its clientele has been local to Prescott and the neighbouring towns north of the border. 

Hudson said most of her dine-in customers are still Canadians. 

“Right now it’s still mostly a lot of the local community,” said Hudson. “It hasn’t changed drastically.” 

Rouse said the travel will increase from Ogdensburg to Ontario as regulations ease and its easier for Americans to visit Canadian cities. 

“We’re looking forward to it slowly opening up. Ottawa is the closest city,” she said. “Canadians don’t think about that, but Ottawa is [Ogdensburg’s] city. It’s kind of a cross-border thing that was shut off to us.”

With regulations beginning to loosen and the holidays coming, Rouse and Sherman said they look forward to a thriving economy on both sides of the border. 

“As the owner of a small bed and breakfast, I like recommending to my guests that they visit wonderful places like Upper Canada Village, the Brockville Aquarium, the Brockville train tunnel, Fort Welling, Fort Henry, Parliament, Senator's games, the Byward Market, Ottawa's museums and restaurants,” Reagan said.