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Ameublement Elvis could be hurt by U.S.-Cuba pact

12/18/2014 01:36 EST | Updated 02/17/2015 05:59 EST
Montreal's "Elvis" is watching closely to see how the warming of relations between the United States and Cuba will affect his used-appliance business. 

The Ameublement Elvis used-appliance store on Papineau Avenue has been doing business with Cuba for decades.

Owner Daniel Côté says about a quarter of his business comes from dealing with the island-nation, thanks to the longstanding U.S. trade embargo.

If that trade embargo with Cuba is eventually lifted, that could kill Côté's business dealings in the country.

Côté, or simply Elvis according to his neighbours, is a colourful character who sports a big moustache.

Photos of Elvis Presley are on his store's windows and delivery trucks, and songs by the legendary musician play all day on the store's sound-system.

Côté first started selling appliances to Cuban airline pilots and flight attendants he met while in the Dominican Republic in the early 1990s. 

That led to trips to Cuba and contacts with important government officials. 

Elvis and Raul

Eventually, he made a deal with Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and now the leader of Cuba. 

Côté started shipping containers full of appliances to the country, and eventually even cars, trucks and school buses.

He has a knack for finding stuff cheap, and because of the U.S. trade embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba needed a lot of cheap stuff.

"The embargo paid my way for years," said Côté. 

He estimated 25 per cent of his current business comes from Cuba.

The trade embargo is far from being lifted, but Côté believes it's now inevitable. That will mean Cubans will be able to buy and ship goods more easily from the U.S., he said.

"If the embargo is lifted, I'm done in Cuba. I guess I'll have to close my Cuban bank account," Côté said with a laugh.

He said he'll get by with his Montreal store. Mostly, he said he's happy that people in Cuba may have a shot at a better life.

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