The Province active-adult community in Maricopa may be the southernmost “province” of Canada. Or, that special honor could apply to all of Maricopa, for that matter.
Each fall, Maricopa’s northern neighbors flock like Canadian geese to this little oasis in desert.
An obvious reason is the weather. The average daily high in Edmonton, Alberta, where seasonal Province residents Peter and Johanna McNeil are from, is around zero degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees for us Americans who still use the Fahrenheit system.
“That’s why we’re here,” Peter says.
But it is more than just the warm temperatures that attract Canadians to Maricopa. They could go to Scottsdale, Miami or Galveston, Texas. All of those places have golf.
So what else brings them to Maricopa for the winter? A big reason is the small-town atmosphere with the close proximity to a large metropolitan area.
“I like the small-town feel and the fact it easy to get around,” Peter says. “You don’t have all the traffic and freeways, but if you want to go to Chandler or Mesa it is close enough, close enough to airport.”
Peter says he doesn’t need to go to the Valley very often because he can do most of his shopping here.
“I do all my grocery shopping in town,” he says. “With the addition of the Walmart there is all kinds of shopping here.”
The McNeils moved to Maricopa in 2005 and were one of the first Canadian couples in Province.
“My mother-in-law has a place in an RV park in Mesa,” Peter says. “In 2004 we were flying down around Christmas and saw an ad for the Province community in the in-flight magazine and were thinking we would like to enjoy the snowbird lifestyle and have a look. We signed the papers the very first day in Province. We signed up to have a house built for us.”
Garry and Barbara Moerkerk are also from Edmonton, Alberta, and Garry is the treasurer of the Province Snowbird Club. The couple has spent three winters in Maricopa.
“We have been getting to know the city in the last three years and it has everything we want,” Barbara says. “It is close enough to a bigger city if you want to go there. We are really blessed.”
The Moerkerks heard about Maricopa while they were looking to buy a home in the Valley or Casa Grande. The real estate agent took them “everywhere,” and when they saw Maricopa and looked through models in Province, “that was it.”
“We tried to make a couple of offers on this block in Province, and our first two choices were sold out right from under us,” she says. “We ended up with the third choice, but we are not unhappy. We love Province and the Maricopa community.”
And that “love” is a two-way street.
Many businesses in Maricopa love Canadians as much as Canadians love Maricopa.
Canadians have money to spend — that’s an obvious reason — but there’s more to it than just the almighty dollar.
“I love the Canadians,” says Dan Dawn, co-owner of Arroyo Vista Landscape and Design. “They are good people, very polite and they pay well.”
Dawn says he does a lot of installs and remodels, and about 35 percent of that business comes from Canadians. He works with some of his Canadian clients while they are away. He sends them pictures on his progress, they either approve his work or request changes and then he sends them the final pictures.
Rosalinda Galindo-O’Hare, owner of Penascos Mexican Restaurant, says her Canadian customers are loyal and have a strong sense of family, much like Mexicans.
“They are very good people and have been extremely loyal in the six years we have been here,” she says. “They are so excited when they come back and tell their friends about us. They embrace the Mexican culture and love Mexican food.”
For Yogurt Jungle owner Sharilynn Hewitt, the timing of many Canadians coming back to Maricopa in October couldn’t be better, because that’s when the cooler weather slows her business.
She estimates Canadians account for 15 percent of her business from October through April. “It makes up for the slow season; it helps business maintain for those months.”
Dick Crew, co-owner of Hair Focus, says he sees a boost in business of 12 to 15 percent from Canadians during the cooler months.
“A few start coming in during November and some leave for Christmas, but then come back and stay through April,” he says.
While Canadian customers are seasonal for many businesses in Maricopa, Dennis and Cheryl Libby, owners of Cactus Valley Transportation, say they get work from Canadians year round.
About 20 percent of their business comes from driving Canadians back and forth to Sky Harbor International Airport and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport throughout the year.
Tim and Janet Rippin own CanAm Home Watch & Handyman Services, a business that does everything from periodic inspections of homes and properties, to pulling weeds, to pest extermination, to fixing leaking faucets.
“Whatever the client wants us to do or check on,” Janet says.
Janet feels a kinship with Canadians because she is Canadian.
They started their business after the third time Tim got laid off in the construction business.
***ADVERTISEMENT***“Given that the recovery for construction would take a little longer, we decided to start our own business and employment,” Janet says.
While many Canadians enjoy the amenities of a gated community like Province, others prefer a more rustic lifestyle.
Jeanna and Rand Delcotto own the Raceway Bar & Grill on Papago Road, about 10 miles from the city.
“A lot of Canadians live out here where they have acreage,” Jeanna says. “They have mini-farms here and have become a part of our Raceway family. Last year we did a welcome-back party for the Grey Cup, which is like the Canadian version of the Super Bowl.”
She says the Canadians like good wine, good food and good music. “And they occasionally like to have gravy on their fries.”
Mayor Anthony Smith says he is grateful for business from Canadians and all of Maricopa’s visitors.
“All local visitors, including Canadians, have helped our local economy survive during these hard times,” Smith says.