Nick Pitillo, a local restaurateur and lifelong resident, said that business was better during Columbus Day weekend, particularly compared with the dark days of 2020, but was still off about 15 percent.
“We had a great week, but you could definitely feel their absence,” he said, adding that Ellicottville had also seen many Canadians sell their property during the pandemic. “We look forward to welcoming everyone back.”
Canadians have long liked shopping in the United States, where they avoid federal sales taxes imposed by the Canadian government. And on Wednesday, retailers across New York seemed thrilled that such shoppers might soon be coming back across the border. So did leaders of several tribal casinos that dot western New York and the North Country, including the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, where gaming was badly hurt by the lack of Canadian gamblers.
At the Walden Galleria, a huge mall just east of Buffalo, just off the New York Thruway, officials said retailers were already planning “Welcome Back Canadians!” sales.
“Our Canadian customers have always represented a significant part of our business,” said Stephen J. Congel, the chief executive of the mall’s parent company, Pyramid Management Group. “So we are excited to welcome our beloved northern neighbors back into the country.”
On Lake Champlain, meanwhile, Norman Lague, the owner of Lakeside Coffee in Rouses Point, N.Y., which sits on the border, said if there was a silver lining to the 19-month shutdown, it was that it forced him and other business owners to develop deeper connections with their own communities.
“We feel we’re stronger,” said Mr. Lague, a former border patrol agent.
That said, he also said he was looking forward to seeing more Canadian boats and cars sitting outside his lakeside cafe.
“Its going to be nice to see some faces that we’ve haven’t seen,” he said.