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CITY FOCUS: When loonies beat dollars

Tom Williams, owner of My Laguna Office, left behind a landscape of snow and ice in Ontario, Canada, opting instead for the sun and sand of Laguna Beach. He also left behind a country where the U.S. dollar was perennially stronger than the Canadian dollar.

Now, for the first time since John F. Kennedy was in the White House, the U.S. dollar is worth roughly 99 cents of every Canadian one — and Williams is celebrating.

Williams is offering a 5% exchange rate on Canadian money, which means each Loonie (Canadian dollar) is worth $1.05 at My Laguna Office. It’s a program he’s calling Canuck Bucks.

As a native of Toronto, the exchange rate between the countries was never far from Williams’ consciousness.

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Retailers in border areas of Canada routinely post up-to-date information on the exchange rate. American shoppers would commonly comb cross-border shops to make their money stretch a little further.

“It’s so natural to go across the border to shop,” Williams said.

The program is drawing attention in his store. Williams says many customers aren’t even aware Canada’s currency is outpacing the U.S.’, if only by about a penny margin. Nonetheless, Williams says many Americans have a hard time understanding it.

“They say ‘what do you mean?’ ‘How could that be?’” Williams said.

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It’s understandable. Not even Williams knew until he had to send a check to Canada. He said it was written under the assumption that U.S. dollars were still worth more. He ended up having to send another check.

Some shoppers have even been incensed at the idea of the American dollar being worth less than Canada’s. Williams sets them straight.

“They should be mad at George Bush, not me,” Williams joked.

Despite the fun he has with his Canadian heritage, Williams’ home is now Laguna. He distributes stickers in his store that promote shopping locally. He also hosts a website called www.lagunalist.com which serves as a guide to local services and businesses.

Williams says that for all the pride he has in his Canadian roots, Laguna is where his heart is.



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