2006-05-04 / News

How is the price of gas affecting island businesses?

By Sam Bari

Some businesses are keeping their prices where they are for as long as they can. Others have been hit harder. The energy crunch is forcing them to make adjustments.

"It isn't just gas at the pumps that's having an impact," said Chuck Masso, owner of Chopmist Charlie's, a popular eatery on Narragansett Avenue. "The entire energy package has escalated. The prices of electricity, propane, and gasoline have all skyrocketed. We're getting surcharges for deliveries from almost every vendor. Consequently, we're going to have to make adjustments in the menu. Not much, just a quarter to 50 cents here and there, but when the cost of business increases, it eventually reflects at the retail level. And I know we're not alone. Everybody is feeling it. wish I could say that it's going to get better," he added.

Bill Munger of Conanicut Marine Services has been pleasantly surprised. "Boat sales are vibrant," Munger said. "And I'm talking about powerboats. We're actually ahead of last year. And people are re-powering with the new fuel-efficient engines. Business has been brisk. The brokerage is a little flat, but new boats are doing well. I hear that sailboat sales are up, but we expected that. So far, we're holding our prices, but cost of deliveries could change that. We're going to keep them down as long as possible," he said.

Mike Ridge of Spinnakers, a summertime ice cream shop at East Ferry says, "We've only been open for two weeks, but we're getting surcharges on deliveries. Although we haven't raised the prices yet, I expect that we're going to eventually, at least a little. It doesn't look like the price of gas is going down."

Heidi Lessard of the Secret Garden, a florist and specialty gift shop, said that all vendors are adding fuel surcharges to their invoices. "Plus, the cost of electricity has gone up. It's also costing us more to make deliveries to our customers. The price of energy is nickel and diming businesses in every way possible. We have big coolers where we keep cut flowers. It costs 20 percent more than last year to keep them running. The only way we can pay for all this is to make adjustments at the retail level. We don't like to raise prices, and we're trying to keep them down. I just don't know how much longer we can do that," Lessard said.

Paula La Barre of Grapes and Gourmet, an East Ferry liquor store, deli, and specialty wine shop, said that prices have not affected them too much. "Instead of getting surcharges from vendors, they've raised the minimum delivery, so we have to invest more in inventory. So far, we haven't had to raise prices. Where it hurts me is in the 40-mile drive to work from Connecticut every morning," La Barre said.

Scott Sherman of Jamestown True Value Hardware says that they have seen some surcharges in delivery prices. "But not enough to raise our prices yet," Sherman said. If the price of fuel keeps going up, eventually we'll feel the crunch and probably have to do something. How much depends on the price of delivered goods. So far, it's not affecting us to that point," he added.

Phyllis Bedard of Trattoria Simpatico, a popular downtown eatery featuring live entertainment, feels optimistic. "We've worked very hard to survive this energy crunch without putting the burden on our customers. Our new summer menu is out, and we're keeping the cafe menu at current prices until Memorial Day. Our customers are very loyal to us, and we owe it to them to operate efficiently and not hike the prices whenever there's a little glitch in the economy. So far, we're holding our own. Let's hope we can keep it that way," Bedard said.

Steve Liebhauser, owner of Slice of Heaven, said, "Yes, we've been experiencing fuel surcharges from some vendors. No, we haven't raised our prices with the current spike in the cost of gas and other energy sources. Will we have to? Eventually, maybe. don't plan on it unless it's necessary. We'll wait and see what happens."

Zoe Conti of East Ferry Deli said, "We're being hit with fuel surcharges every day. We keep our prices competitive, but we have had to make small adjustments here and there. I think everybody is feeling the crunch. The price of fuel keeps rising. We can't absorb it forever."

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