It hasn’t even been open a month yet, but the Price Chopper near Alexandria Bay is already attracting international attention.
Canadian shoppers are flocking to the chain’s new location, which opened May 5 on Route 12 close to the Thousand Islands International Bridge, to take advantage of the lower prices and greater variety that the American grocery store offers.
Monday was Victoria Day, a federal holiday in Canada, and several carloads of Canadian customers did indeed roll through the store’s parking lot. Some were making a regular grocery run while others were dropping by on their way home from a holiday weekend in the north country.
The item of choice seemed to be beer.
Daniel N. Kellett, Gareth J. Williams and Michelle M. Jordan, from Scotland, England, and Ireland, respectively, have been living in Toronto for the past eight months and came over to spend the weekend camping in Wellesley Island State Park.
They pulled into the lot in a dusty blue Volkswagen Beetle and piled out, all a little bit sunburned.
“We’ve been here every single day three days in a row,” Mr. Williams said of the Price Chopper location. “It’s convenient because you come right off the bridge.”
The trio said they had previously purchased marshmallows, barbecue meat and other items for their camping trip.
Before embarking on their return journey, they were looking to pick up some water and snacks for the road.
And beer for when they got home.
Next was a young couple, Justin B. and Ashley D. Thompson, from Gananoque, Ontario, who came in with their 5-year-old son, Madden.
Gananoque is approximately 20 minutes from the border and the family was stocking up.
“Groceries!” Madden exclaimed.
Mrs. Thompson said they received a flier from Price Chopper at home.
“They’re doing a really good marketing job,” she said, expressing her surprise that an American chain had reached out to Canadian consumers.
The couple said they usually don’t buy produce or large plants because it can sometimes be hard to get those items across the border.
Another major item on the family’s shopping list: beer.
“All our beer stores are closed today,” Mrs. Thompson said mournfully.
The family had previously shopped at the Watertown Price Chopper but said they were now more likely to visit the Alexandria Bay store.
Sylvan LaMarche and his wife were on their way back to Ottawa from a weekend in Syracuse when they decided to stop at the border to fill up on gas and grab a quick snack before their 2 p.m. tee-time at a course back home.
They were also looking to pick up some beer.
“Cheap beer,” Mr. LaMarche said.
Bryan W. Greer and Andrea D. Huggard, from Perth, Ontario, were in town to pick up a week’s worth of groceries. They said they favored American stores because of lower prices and greater variety of packaged foods.
“There’s a huge difference in selection,” Mr. Greer said.
The couple heard about the store when one of Ms. Huggard’s friends returned from a recent trip.
Shortly after 2 p.m., Kurt B. and Linda D. Andersen, of Ottawa, dropped in to “pick up a bit of groceries” following a day trip to Watertown.
A scotch-drinker, Mr. Andersen said that he would not be bringing back any beer but that he has never had any trouble bringing groceries across the border.
“They don’t like live plants,” Mr. Andersen said. “Anything from a grocery store is no problem.”
When he crosses the border, he simply presents his receipt and passes through.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency, citizens can bring back up to 8.5 litres of beer or ale per person duty free. That’s about 24 12-ounce cans each.
For clothing and other retail goods, a Canadian citizen can claim up to CA$200 worth of goods without paying any duties after an absence of 24 hours or more. After an absence of 48 hours or more, a citizen can claim up to CA$800 worth of goods.
All food, plants and animals must be declared. Because of emerging threats, restricted items can change on a daily basis.
Canadian citizens can visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Automated Import Reference System for updates on what products are restricted.
The system provides a searchable database of materials based on country and state of origin and end use.
According to the border agency’s website, there are limits that apply to personal importation of food products from the U.S., including the following:
n 2 dozen eggs.
n 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, of dairy products not exceeding $20 in value.
n 3 kilograms, or 6 pounds, of margarine or butter substitutes.
n 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, of edible meat and meat products, including turkey and chicken.
Anything above those quantities is subject to duty.
Todd E. Thompson, manager of the Alexandria Bay Price Chopper, said that while he isn’t sure how many Canadian customers the store is attracting, he has noticed and spoken to quite a few.
They have told him that dairy and poultry products can be very expensive over the border.
One Canadian customer said that a stick of butter can cost twice as much in Canada as in the U.S.
Last Saturday the store was “very, very busy,” thanks in no small part to Canadian customers, Mr. Thompson said.
Information about Food, Plant and Animal regulations can be found here: www.cb sa.gc.ca/fpa-apa/regs-eng.html#c1
The Automated Import Reference System can be found here: http://airs-sari.inspec tion.gc.ca/Airs_External/Deci sions.aspx?lang=1