Enough Whining About Cross Border Shopping in Cornwall Ontario! – Editorial by Jamie Gilcig

CFN – Such gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth here in Cornwall Ontario as certain dignitaries who haven’t been earning their paycheques are taking shots at Cross Border shopping.

Being a border town, that stink comes up every now and again, but sometimes you have to look in the mirror and accept reality.

Cornwall has many borders.  Quebec is near by as our Economic Dev guy’s wife can tell you with the outlet mall in Vaudreuil/Dorion and some nice shopping in Valleyfield where a lot of locals zoom to buy cheaper Quebec beer!

And we have the bridge to the US where we can buy the same gas that the local McEwen’s sells for .95 per litre instead of $1.25 or more!

In our city we have a major shopping strip on Brookdale  that features big box type stores (ok, smaller versions of big box type stores) including Walmart.

We then have our city core which is struggling mightily as mom and pop businesses are not only forced to compete with cross border issues, but competing with big box stores and online sales.

We sell advertising which is usually the first thing that small businesses cut down on which usually is the one item they shouldn’t.  We have businesses that scream that you should shop local while not advertising locally which is kinda ironic.

As a consumer who struggles like 99% of everyone here we always have to look forward to the best value.   There’s nothing wrong with cross border shopping or shopping out of town.  I mean, what business turns out of towners biz down?  If someone comes over from Massena would you turn down the sale?  No.  It’s about competition.  Add in online and it really shows how important value, service,  and quality are becoming.   Now don’t get me wrong.  I prefer personally to shop locally and most of my purchases are made right here in Cornwall.

It’s not easy running any business or service!   Businesses locally and anywhere really need to understand their goals and how to communicate them to the public.

Small business is the life line of any community.  They generally offer goods and services not available in bigger stores and have local flavors that really work.  When I had a store on Montreal Road one of our biggest services was ordering goods online for our clients that needed that help or service.  That being said you can’t just rest on the fact you’re local. You have to work harder than the big guys  because each client is worth much more to you than to the big guys.   When I see Walmart full here in Cornwall I think of the loss to the hundreds of small local business.  That’s far more of a concern to me than Massena NY!

You always have to adapt and grow or you sink and die.

So instead of whining about Cross border shopping look in the mirror and amp up your business.      Make sure your website is up to date.   Listen to your clients.  Talk to your clients and ask them really important questions.   Look at what your competition is doing that you think is working and learn.    Make sure you’re socially connected online.   Those facebook & Twitter pages can really help not only make you money, but create awareness and branding.

And businesses in this town really need to learn to work nice with each other; especially in the down town core.   I spoke with one outfit that wanted to do an event on Pitt Street but was met with some very odd behavior from their fellow businesses.

One particular restaurant goes after the throat of its competition in some ways that just hurt the core, and the reality is that there’s a huge void with our Chamber of Commerce, DBIA & Team Cornwall failing to address some of the real needs of making our downtown core more successful.

Generally when a business fails it’s its own fault.   You can blame the rest of the world and dwindle or you can be the change and lead your business and community.

The World is full of borders.   It’s full of opportunity too.   That’s your challenge!   And if you’ve read this far please visit some of the amazing sponsors on CFN who are ahead of the curve in building their businesses and serving their communities!

Jamie Gilcig – Editor

The Cornwall Free News

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of this site, their staff, or sponsors.)


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  1. I have a hard time finding clothing I really like here in Cornwall.. i either go to Ottawa (mostly do) or Quebec.. Vaudreuil…. I like high end clothing not Walmart trash.. so Ihaveno choice and if I want really nice stuff I go to North Conway NH.

  2. I agree Jamie! I think small business needs to advertise more and offer some incentive to get people into their stores. I am sure it is very hard competing with stores like Wal-mart.

    I admit to being a cross border shopper….a regular one at that. Working part time(not by choice….ya I’m English), tax this, tax that…..sorry I have to make ends meet and if that means going to the U.S., well that is where I’ll be heading. Why should I pay more when I don’t have to? Our government has not responded to any of my personal email on anything other than a form letter once!

    Overall, yes, I will shop Canadian when given an option, I do look at labels when I shop here. I must say though and this is probably opening another can of worms, but service is better in general in the U.S. Heck I can’t remember the last gas station that cleaned my windows with a smile or said, “Have a nice day”, just for looking.

    Yep, Cornwall has a lot of potential, unfortunately it has not yet been tapped into.

  3. One thing certain local businesses could do – especially for regular customers – is say thank you. One business, with whom I’ve spent thousands of dollars, acts as though, each time I’m there, it’s the first. So when met with that unsmiling neutrality last week, I drove to Alexandria and made my purchase there.

  4. Author

    Good for you Soc. Some business people get it, some don’t. Usually those that don’t go out of biz.

  5. An excellent article Jamie. I used to be on a forum (American) and a Canadian lady who now lives in the US said to all of us that in Vermont where she now lives they refused to have a Wal Mart store there because it takes away the business from the small business people. I prefer the small stores and the sales people cater to you a lot more easily.

    We have problems when we go to big box stores like Future Shop to get help except for when Raoul is working. He is from Peru and quite the salesman.

    I would rather deal with a mom and pop store any day. When I go into them they know me and what I want. I don’t mind so much the price as long as I get quality but everything nowadays does not fit at all. Most of my clothes are Wal Mart “aka Slave Mart” junk. I do shop at Sears and the Bay as well. My son has a book that was written by former PM Trudeau’s right hand man and he made me laugh so much in his book. I forget the title but will have to ask my son for it. It was funny the way he described things.

    Yes you can get some good things in Dorion and Vaudreuil if you look hard enough. One woman that I used to know bought a nice winter coat there for very little money many years ago. She couldn’t find what she wanted for the price here in Ottawa since Ottawa is very expensive.

  6. Cornwall used to have good shoe stores like Nymans, Clarke and even Assaly. Nowadays people are going to Wal Mart aka Slave Mart because everything is made in China and places like that where they just throw the shoes away when they are no longer good instead of repairing them. There used to be a shoe repair near Nymans on Pitt Street and we used to go there and repair our shoes. This man was Syrian or Lebanese origin and I will tell you all a funny thing that happened to my husband. My husband was just first in Canada and didn’t know the customs here and he went to get his shoes repaired at that shoe store. My husband saw that the man was one of his own and thought like back home where he would get service done pronto on the spot. The Syrian or Lebanese man said to my husband: “God only gave me two hands” and he showed his hands to my husband. The man was born and raised in Canada but the two had quite a showdown. LOL LOL. Oh how I would have loved to be a fly on the wall that day to see the show. LOL LOL. Esper’s shoe repair is with whom I am thinking about. My parents went to him all the time for repairs. Those were the good days of Cornwall folks and I mean it. Today Cornwall is no longer the same at all. I miss the good old days but not today. I went to school with the children of these people and will always remember them. Everyone is long gone.

    One more thing is that when a store clerk or owner smiles and says thank you that customer will surely go back no matter what the price. We experienced some nice people at a convenience store on Second Street West who were very polite as well as at MacEwan’s Gas on Second West and Trinity. How people approach a customer means a great deal. Here in Ottawa we don’t see many thank you’s nor smiles. In order to attract business you have to be a very good drawing card.

    Just like what Jamie is that it makes me come back like fly paper because he comes out with very interesting articles and is a fair person. Thanks Jamie for your great articles.

  7. The open competitive free enterprise market system, that consist of environmental factors such as Peoples, Products, Places, Promotions, Prices and Profits, is the best means of achieving economic prosperity for an individual, a business and a community. This spontaneously controlled market order system provides equally of opportunities to earn the trust, respect and loyalty of the ultimate decision maker, the buyer. This system also keeps the ultimate purchasing power in the hands of the private money spenders. We vote with our money and we will share our limited money with those individuals, businesses and communities that best cater to our economic and social desires and wishes. Those who failed to serve our needs and wants are treated fairly by our free market system. We refuse to share our private money with them.

  8. I was in the Town of Montreal West recently which has one main shopping street like Pitt St. There is a well-signed municipal parking lot with room for about 30 cars. Parking is free for two hours!
    Imagine if the city parking lot northwest of the library was free for two hours? There would be a lot more customers strolling on Pitt. Instead the downtown gang are trying to merge that area and Le Village into Centretown. What nonsense!

  9. As an old “fart”, I find that the downtown businesses, in general are always looking for that silver bullet, to bring droves of customers to them ! They are looking for outside interests, to latch onto (festivals, buskers, Lamoureux Park, etc) to promote THEIR businesses. It is they, that have to promote THEIR businesses, so that people want to come to their shops. People will travel across town to go to a specific shop-store, why, because they sell – serve the best “whatever”, pricing in some cases are irrelavant, also, they are polite, friendly, and provide the service. If, I may, as an example, I will use Rileys Bakery on Pitt St., very well known, pretty well everyone speaks very highly of the place, in my opinion. People come from all over the city, to shop there, espeacially at lunch for their incredible sandwiches, think of it folks, we are talking sandwiches, this is not brain surgery, this is sandwiches ! Why is it so successful, excellent product, reasonable price, good quality and friendly service from Rob & Anna. So what I’m trying to say, to the business owners is YOU have to make things happen, not the BIA’s, Heart of the City, etc, etc, they are going to be your silver bullets ! Give customers a reason to come to your stores, most of you are not doing this.

  10. Author

    Mr. Magoo I half agree with you. First off kudos to pointing out Ana and Rob at Rileys. They work their butts off and have an institution that would be sorely missed by many if it ever shut its doors!

    The concept of creating a Chamber, BIA, etc is that good businesses can pool together to market themselves and create events and attractions to highlight the already good job that they do.

    Sometimes though things in theory don’t come to be in practice…

  11. Couldn’t agree more with you Jamie, however, the key word in your comment was “GOOD” ! lol

  12. Jamie is concerned about seeing Walmart here full of shoppers and the adverse affect it has on small businesses in this area.
    I worked there within the past five years, and the Brookdale Ave. store was having gross sales per year of $88 million and net profit of $8 million on average.

  13. Jamie worries about Walmart here being full of shoppers and the affect on small local stores. When I worked there in the past five years, the Brookdale Ave. store was posting numbers in one year like gross sales of $88 million, with a net profit of $8 million.

  14. I remember my mother and I stopping into Riley’s Bakery when I was little and she would buy doughnuts there. I would look at the machine that made the doughnuts. You sure brought back one good memory. There was another bakery shop owned by a Dutch fellow and that was good as well and I had my wedding cake decorated by him.

    You couldn’t get me to shop in the US no matter how cheap the price. I rarely ever shopped in the US and never wanted to. I am Canadian and prefer to support my own people. If you have followed what was going on in Bellington Washington (west coast) Yankees were furious at our Canucks going over to shop there saying that our people were impolite and grabbing everything in site. People stop being slaves to these people and shop locally. In the US the milk is different to our own and what it contains is not good at all. I will support our own businesses any day.

    Speaking about Pitt Street that place was up and running like mad years ago until the 80’s came and it started to die. I think that part of the problem is the one way streets. When we go down to Cornwall it is so dead – people get out there and support your businesses.

    Everywhere people are having a hard time. Here in Ottawa there are many houses for sale. If you knew what is really going on in the US you would be more than happy to live in Canada. The same what is going on around the world and Canadians don’t appreciate their land. It would have to take a real catastrophe to really appreciate Canada.

  15. Retail aside, one of Cornwall’s best offerings is its tradespeople – plumbers, roofers, carpenters, landscapers, electricians etc. They’re proud, fair, excellent and great to deal with.

  16. It’s easy to crap on WalMart. But we should remember it is one of the few businesses that does not discriminate against its employees, whether by gender, age, language, disability, looks, colour, creed or family name. And if you’re in the Cornwall WalMart, look around. You’ll see people that have worked there all their working lives; decent, hard-working people in my opinion. I always try to show them the utmost of respect.

  17. Yes Cornwall does have some very good trades people indeed. I always encourage people to do into the trades and I mean that folks. Not everyone is made for university and they find that out only when it is too late and too many debts that they can’t pay back in their lifetime. People with a good trade can make as much as a doctor and sometimes more.

    There is a very good electrician in Cornwall by the name of Barry Latreille and we had him to do some work for us when we owned our house in Cornwall. He is a very good person and a very good electrician. He also hires other electricians to do a lot of his work. This is what you call an “entrepreneur” a very good business man.

    Yes Wal Mart hires all kinds of people and I see it here in Ottawa. A lot of immigrants work there and work mighty hard. I buy things like toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. I buy most of my clothes there along with my adult children but not for my husband who is a lot more picky. I can practically wear a garbage bag on me and I am not that concerned. LOL LOL. I bought two pairs of dress pants at the beginning of the summer at Sears on sale and one looks exactly like a potato sack and I just wear it around to do cleaning, etc. When it gets more worn out I will save the good parts and use it in a quilt.

    Cornwall is situated in the right place not too far from major cities but it isn’t the location that is the problem but it is the people’s mentality of not motivating themselves to get ahead and make something out of themselves and making their own businesses. Don’t rely on the government folks because they are in trouble now. Relying on the government to make your job isn’t good. The government is not in the business of making money when they hire people but they have to collect the taxes off the people in order to keep on going.

    One more big problem in Cornwall is the mayor, administration and the “so called elites” that I make fun of every day. All you folks out there can really do wonders for yourselves and your community and I always say get out there and make a difference. Only you can do that.

  18. Walmart does seem to be the standard by which MacJobs are judged. Globalization and Free Trade have us in a race to the bottom for the “working class”. Since the Strub’s pickle factory got bought out by Bick’s a few months ago, Canadians have to buy their pickles from China or the US! The last canning company in Ontario shut down last summer, so all our canned veggies also come from away. With little to no manufacturing jobs left, maybe we will be forced to take in each others laundry. In the meantime, let’s argue about language rights.

  19. We need business to supply many jobs and items needed or wanted. We have government levels taking money from the business and workers to provide services we ask for well beyond the core itesms of safe clean streets, justice and health.

    We need to find a better balance between what the government takes and uses, and with what taxpayers (consumers) have left to spend. People want to help balance their check books and the present cycle is not helpful locally in communities near borders.

    Admin, speaking of closing a street. I would like to see a section of business groups block a street on a Saturday afternoon and show thier wares. Hairdressers even can cut a few kids hair and a couple of start up bands could play. This could rotate streets all summer and all business entities could chip in for a couple of large banners to move from site to site.

  20. Ed, language rights are involving alot of money that could otherwise be used to charge less tax.

  21. Author

    Hi Eric,

    It’s funny that you mention that. A few merchants and I have been talking about putting an event together. Having put on more than 200 events in my past life I have the experience, but we’re worried that “the clique” would not cooperate or even worse try and block it!

  22. Globalization = slavery. This is all planned for a mighty long time. All our jobs are gone overseas to people who work for a fraction of the price. Doctors complain about their salaries when they are well where they are even with a little cut. Teachers should be cut down since education is in the toilet. People who have a good vision about making business don’t need this trashy education. They need the drive and a little money to invest. The problem is that the powers that be “I am not talking about Cornwall’s crap that think that they own and run things” but I am talking about the Nazis in charge of the world – the banksters, etc. Too many people are dumbed down so bad that they know nothing at all.

    In order to get better food people have to grow a lot of their own. Pickles are very easy to make unlike the processing of vegetables and meats. People we will all have to learn the old ways of life. I already quilt and can sew and knit but we have to learn canning. Our lives may depend on it as time goes on.

  23. You know what closing of a street is an excellent idea and have merchants come out and display their wares. The small businesses are greatly affected by the big box stores. My parents always dealt with the little hardware store on Pitt Street near Second Street and my tongue is tied just now and it starts with S – oh Snetzingers hardware. I bought some things from them in past years. There used to be Kytes bookstore and so many nice small businesses. I much prefer the small hardware stores.

    I only went twice to Home Depot here in Ottawa because the little hardware stores didn’t have what we needed but I always go to Home Hardware and places like that here in Ottawa. We did the same when we were in Cornwall. Snetzingers always had good staff and very good service and very polite. They used to deliver paint and other things to my parents who dealt with them as long as I have been around. I support the little guy. I much prefer the mom and pop stores.

    There used to be some very good clothing stores in Cornwall and Vogue was one of them that was on Montreal Road owned and operated by the Abagov family. There were some on Pitt Street as well.

    Nowadays everything is junk and I throw anything on even though nothing fits. LOL LOL. I have to get my son to dig through his junk pile for that book written by former PM Trudeau’s right hand man. It is quite funny in his descriptions. He makes fun of globalism.

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