A Santa Claus hired by the Nogales, Ariz., merchants greets shoppers from both countries in Nov. 1976. Tucson Citizen file photo


Doing business on the border used to mean courting Mexican shoppers looking for the latest in U.S. fashions and other goods.

That still happens, but it isn't nearly as lucrative as it once was. With tighter border security in both directions, it takes much longer for Mexican consumers to come into this country to shop and then to return home. So their numbers have dropped.

"It's still viable, but it ain't the glory years," said Bruce Bracker of Bracker's Department Store in Nogales.

While Main Street shops in U.S. border towns struggle, many restaurants, convenience stores and landlords are doing quite well, thanks to Border Patrol agents, customs inspectors, and other state and federal employees working to secure the border. They buy gasoline, meals and snacks, and they rent hotel rooms and apartments.

In many ways, this has become the new model for doing business on the border: Hope for well-heeled Mexican shoppers willing to withstand the waits, and go all out to cater to the federal government and its growing legion of agents.

more Inside

The final installment of a five-part series exploring changes on the U.S.-Mexico border.

• The Border then: The line between nations barely mattered to Mexican shoppers. Page A10

• The Border now: U.S. federal, not Mexican, money is feeding area businesses. Page A10

ONline chat today

Brady McCombs will chat online with readers about the series at noon today. Read the series at azstarnet.com/thenandnow