BLAINE, Wash. — This town near the border of Canada is home to only 5,500 residents, but it has about 20 mailbox stores — so many that the town recently banned new ones from being constructed along the main drag. The stores were built on their allure to Canadians, who save in shipping and customs costs by having their waders from L.L. Bean or mock Tiffany lamps from Amazon mailed to the stores, then carry the packages back over the border.
But this year, the packages have slowed. The mailbox stores have quieted. And Canadians say politics and pride are keeping them away.
“For Canadians, Whatcom County is a kind of near-abroad — it’s seen as not quite American,” Tom Roehl, a professor of international economics at Western Washington University in Bellingham, said of the county closest to the Canadian border, which includes Blaine. “We kind of take advantage of that.”