WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in Watertown are preparing to welcome back Canadian shoppers.

Fully vaccinated Canadians will be permitted to cross the border for non-essential purposes beginning on Monday, November 8. This will mark the first opportunity many Canadians will have to visit the North Country to see friends, relatives, explore the region, and… shop.

Although this opening has been anticipated by many, the Salmon Run Mall in Watertown has been preparing quietly for months.

“We’re definitely very excited to welcome our Canadians back over here again,” Mall Marketing Director Karla Woods said. “We’ve been planning on this for months, actually. You know, the date kept getting pushed back and everything. But our tenants are ready for them.”

The Salmon Run Mall recently logged higher traffic rates than in 2019. But according to Woods, the loss of Canadian shoppers in the past 20 months had “no doubt” had an impact as they account for roughly 30 to 40% of the mall’s traffic.

“To bring them all back again is great. And I think they’re going to be pleased with what they see here,” Woods added.

There have also been many changes in stores and tenants in this 20-month time frame, which includes the opening of Hobby Lobby in 2020, the addition of many recreational opportunities, local small businesses and the recent opening of Planet Fitness.

But many projects have been in the works to prepare for the reopening of the border to nonessential travel. This includes a designated webpage on the Salmon Run Mall’s website with hotels, local attractions and COVID-19 testing sites. Additionally, stores have also hired more staff to accommodate for increased foot traffic.

And Woods said that many shoppers from across the border have been sharing their excitement on social media, and she said the feeling is mutual.

“We’re excited to get them back here and just to see their faces again. And just even the feedback on our social media with some posts that we’ve done, you know, they’re just like, ‘we can’t wait and we’re so excited.’ So I’m feeling’s mutual,” Woods expressed.

U.S. land ports of entry and ferry terminals will open to all fully vaccinated Canadians on Monday, November 8. Full travel guidance is found on ABC50NOW.