Weak Canadian Dollar Leads Last Grocery Store In Sumas To Shutter

May 24, 2017

For decades, Canadian shoppers have walked back and forth across the U.S.-Canada border into Sumas, Wash. to shop at a family-owned grocery store called Bromley’s Market

After 57 years, the store is closing its doors for the last time today.

 

Catherine DeBruin, is the front-end supervisor at Bromley’s Market. Her grandparents bought the store in 1960 and she grew up in the family business.  

“Running around at 8 years old, you know, I got paid a buck an hour by my grandpa, to get carts and bag groceries,” said DeBruin.

Sumas, located in north Whatcom County is a small town, but it’s the second-busiest pedestrian crossing along the entire U.S. -Canada border. 

DeBruin says her Canadian customers walked to the store for good prices on poultry, meat and especially dairy products.  But in the last few years, that’s changed. 

The Canadian dollar is weak, compared to the U.S. dollar, making it more expensive for Canadians to shop in Whatcom County.

“Border traffic, I know, hasn’t been what it has been since 2013, and customers who’ve been here forever say they just stopped coming down because of the dollar,” she said. 

Bromley’s Market also had to contend with new regulations including the increased minimum wage.  But retail is also changing – you can buy groceries online now.

Laurie Trautman director of Western Washington University’s Border Policy Research Institute says it’s hard to compete with big box stores that are popular with Canadians. 

“Those are the ones too that can weather these kind of dips in shopping patterns; a company like Costco isn’t going to go out of business because their numbers dipped 20 percent — they’ll probably weather the storm,” said Trautman.

As Bromley’s Market closes Catherine DeBruin likes to recall her loyal Canadian customers. Some of them were there since the store’s earliest years, and they stayed to shop until the very end.