Nogales businesses struggle

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Nogales, Mexico has long relied on visitors from the U.S. who come to shop, buy prescription drugs, eye glasses or see a dentist. “Good prices,” said Connie Kessler smiling as she walked out of a dentist office with her husband Max.

But the good prices are not enough these to lure American visitors just across the border.  And businesses that depended on tourists are struggling as people stay away.
Some shops have shut down and other businesses in Nogales are surviving on a few loyal customers.
“She’s my friend for a long time, said merchant Ruben Mendoza, standing next to Dawn Frankowski, a customer from Tucson. 

“ If I buy anything I usually try to buy from this store,” said   Frankowski.  She paid eight dollars for a leather wallet. 

As the temperatures dip merchants look forward to see more faithful customers. That’s when the “snowbirds” arrive from colder parts of the U.S. And the holiday shopping season begins.

“ El dia del pavo, the turkey day. Thanksgiving,” said Jose Vasquez who works in a shop that sell pottery, glassware, and other items that appeal to tourists. Nogales businesses used to see sales surge this time of year.
“That’s when we have lots of people,” said Vasquez standing outside an empty shop. He supports a wife and three children on his earnings. 

Americans may be reluctant to cross the border but three Canadians were eager to visit Mexico.  They’re riding their motorcycles all the way to Argentina.

“Today we’re going to cross the border at Nogales and head to the copper canyon,” explained Greg Cummings, 54,  one of the Canadian riders.

His riding companion David Olson, 43, admitted some relatives questioned their plan, “My mother spoke to my cousin in Texas who said ‘he’s crazy. He’s an idiot. He shouldn’t do that. It’s so dangerous in Mexico.’”

The riders avoided the region in Mexico near the Texas border but felt the adventurous road trip was worth any potential risk. 

“You’ve got to die of something so you might as well do something that’s entertaining and interesting, said Brad Cougle, 35, another one of the Canadian riders.

“I don’t want to be 95 in a hospital bed,” said  Cougle  who has a blog (add link http://thelifeofbrad.blogspot.com/) that includes a GPS tracker showing his location. Right now he’s in Guadalajara, Mexico. In an email said he’s, “getting good Spanish lessons from my friends here and getting the bike tuned up.”  

Meanwhile merchants in Nogales just hope to convince Americans it’s safe to take a few steps across the border.  

Everyone hopes the Americans return to Nogales soon to take advantage of the warmer weather and bargain prices.   “I hope they do because this city needs us, said Helen King, a visitor from Tucson.