Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ex-urbans and Canadians...

Last night I was sitting at Boundary Bay having dinner at one of the large tables in the bar. None of the smaller tables were available. As I was noshing on my lamb burger and stout, a handsome young fortyish couple asked if they could share a table with me while they waited for a seat in the main dining.  "No problem", I said. As a stay at home Dad, I recruit conversations with other willing  adults with alacrity.  What followed was a brief but simple conversation the meaning of which every city planner and developer should memorize:

"Are you from around here?"

"No, we're Canadian."

"Ah! What part of Canada?"

"We're from Kamloops!"

"A bit of a drive, isn't it?"

"Not really, it's only about four hours. We like it here so much that whenever we have to fly we come down here to spend the night and then fly out the next morning. Do you live here? Where are you from?"

"My wife and I moved up from Oakland eleven years ago." Gratuitously and unnecessarily I added, "It's across the bay from San Francisco".  Obviously, they were Canadian visitors and therefore smart, well-educated and middle class. The geography lesson was superfluous on my part. "My wife and I came here because we thought it would be simpler and less costly to raise children than in the Bay Area.  We really enjoy living here. Do you like to fly out of Bellingham more than Vancouver?"

"Oh yes. It's much nicer. Plus we love the food here in Bellingham. This is a nice restaurant. Do you eat here often?"

"Yes. Boundary Bay has excellent food. And really good beer.  My wife and I miss the big city sometimes but were so glad Bellingham has such good food!"

Conversation meandered on pleasantly about the sale of milk at Costco, the price of gas, the cost of taxes in Canada, etc.  I decided to offer up this observation: "You know, our in-store retail sales in Whatcom County would be a hole so deep no one could see the bottom of it if you guys weren't visiting with such frequency!"  This particular couple had never been to Bellingham's Costco, but they were aware of the South Delta visitors. Kamloops is located well east of the Vancouver metro.

I described to them the "walk-in" milk refrigerator at Costco and the non stop patronage.  I'd nearly finished my schooner of stout by this point and as they were called for their table I added,  "Have a nice flight. Keep coming to Bellingham. We love you guys!"

So there you have it. An ex-urban from Oakland talking to overnight visitors from Kamloops; the both of us spending $$$ in Bellingham all the while talking about what a nice place it is.  If you are a city planner or developer here, try not to discourage either type of us. As far as I can tell, ex-urbans and Canadians are  among the greatest contributors to the city coffers. I don't mean to be snobby, but I've examined with some effort the spending habits  native Bellinghammers. Those of us from Oakland and Kamloops have them beat any day of the week.