BANGOR, Maine — Saint John, New Brunswick, residents Barbra “Barb” Bogliuni and Orida Savoie, who are neighbors, boarded a bus at 6 a.m. with 54 others from in or around New Brunswick’s largest city, for a day trip to the Queen City.
“We’re here for shopping,” Bogliuni said enthusiastically after disembarking from the Saint John-based Day Trippin’ Tours bus at Kohl’s on Saturday morning.
Kohl’s was the first of many Saturday stops for the tour bus, which heads to Bangor weekly during the holiday shopping season.
“We know where the bargains are,” Bogliuni said.
“We come a couple times a year,” Savoie added.
The Day Trippin’ Tours bus was one of many from Canada that dropped off shoppers at retail stores in the Bangor area with only 14 days left before Christmas.
Canadians also drove their own vehicles, as was evident from the number of vehicles with license plates from our neighbors to the north and east, parked in Bangor Mall lots and at shopping spots in Brewer.
Saint John resident Brenda Melanson, who took a minivan to Bangor with her daughter, her boyfriend and his mother, arrived at Kohl’s on Saturday just as the tour bus was leaving.
“I’m usually on that bus,” she said. “I was down here a month ago.”
Melanson said the three-hour trip to the Bangor Mall area is now a holiday tradition.
“There are better deals and more stuff, different stuff,” said her daughter Ashley Melanson. “We love the Bath & Body [Works] shop.”
“We love Kohl’s, Target, Burlington Coat Factory,” her mom added.
The Canadian-American exchange rate on Friday was at 93 percent, a banker at the Merrill Bank in Bangor said. That means $1 Canadian equals 93 cents in the United States. Factor in the 13 percent sales tax in New Brunswick and it’s easy to see why shoppers from our eastern neighbor flock to the state.
“That makes a difference,” said Celine Percy of Rothesay, New Brunswick. “The savings are better.”
Celine and Larry Percy came to Bangor with their friends Donna and Phil Maston, who are from Saint John.
“We love the shopping,” said Donna Maston. “We’ve been here since Thursday.”
The foursome said they hit all the stores in the area and were planning second visits to Kohl’s, Sears and JC Penney on Saturday.
Larry Percy and Phil Maston said Canadian visitors don’t just stop at retail shops, they go out to eat, stay at area hotels and sometimes have a little fun.
“We did go bowling,” Larry Percy said.
Jeannine Brooks, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn on Haskell Road, said she sees a lot of customers from all over Canada.
“Canadian shoppers definitely influence our business,” she said. “It’s not just us. I think they’ve been an influence for all of the local economy. We’re grateful.”
Florence Simmonds, guest services manager for Country Inn at the mall on Stillwater, said the 95-room hotel saw four or five tour buses from Canada in November and one, so far, in December.
The Canadian shoppers who traveled to the Queen City for holiday shopping seemed to be having a good time, and all said they’d be back.
“We were here just about a month ago, three of us women,” Celine Percy said of her last Bangor visit with Donna Maston and another friend. “We love shopping.”
The evidence — the shopping bags that filled the truck compartment of the vehicle — proved she was telling the truth.
“Look, the car is full,” said Larry Percy after he packed in another package.
That didn’t seem to stop them from heading over to Sears.