Small Dallas businesses feel the pinch of high inflation – The Dallas Morning News | Hot Mobile Press

A hair salon had to raise prices. A dry cleaner can’t get the plastic bags they use for cleaned and ironed clothes. A restaurant serves fewer fries with each order.

With inflation at a 40-year high, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses to stay open and continue creating jobs that support thousands of Dallas-area families.

These businesses are being squeezed in multiple ways — more expensive supplies, higher utility bills, higher salaries, and in many cases fewer customers who have stayed away since the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the 2020 Census, approximately 97% of all Dallas County businesses are small businesses, with approximately 50,000 in Dallas alone.

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Many remained open thanks to pandemic relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loans. The Small Business Administration distributed $34 billion to Dallas-Fort Worth businesses in 2020 and 2021.

But the galloping year-on-year inflation rate, which hit 9.1% in June, is threatening the viability of small businesses.

Three companies nested in a mall at the intersection of Abrams Road and Northwest Highway in northeast Dallas said Al Dia how to cope with the economic crisis.

“Having a Difficult Time”

“Everything has piled up since the pandemic and we’re having a hard time keeping the business going,” said María García, owner of Lizy Beauty Salon. “Things barely started to settle down as gas prices rose and (the prices of) everything else shot up.”

García, 62, who opened her beauty salon 22 years ago, said she received frequent applications before the pandemic. But now it is more difficult to find workers.

“Girls would always come and ask for a job, but (we) were full. Now I can’t find anyone who wants to work. I’ve had “Employees Wanted” coming to me for months and they’ve come for interviews, but they’re not coming back,” García said.

With three free seats in her salon, the income is shrinking. People still need a haircut but don’t want to wait any longer on Friday and Saturday, the two busiest days, and leave when they see a long waiting list.

To make matters worse, hair styling products are also more expensive.

So García had no choice but to raise prices. A general haircut went from $16 to $18. A color retouch now costs $70, down from $65 a few weeks ago.

When many workers stopped going to their offices or attending formal events during the pandemic, they also stopped sending their clothes to be dry cleaned.

“Anything that people are sending to clean has to do with events and those have been canceled,” said Syed F. Mehndi, 62, owner of Sterling Cleaners. “We reopened and everything was going well, then prices went up and it became difficult to find reasonably priced products.”

Mehndi, known to customers as Frank, said a box of wire hangers he could buy for $42 last year costs him $65 today.

Chef and owner Fernando Barrera speaks to a customer about placing a food order at this Latin Deli restaurant on Saturday, July 16, 2022 in Dallas. The restaurant is one of many Hispanic businesses hit by inflation.(Ben Torres / Featured Contributor)

“We only survive”

Next door to the cleaning is Latin Deli, a sandwich, smoothie, and dessert restaurant that chef Fernando Barrera opened in 2011.

Restaurants are among the businesses hardest hit by inflation. According to the Ministry of Labor Statistics’ June report, the food cost index has risen 1.8% since May, with prices of butter, sugar, flour, grains, baked goods and dairy products rising sharply.

Additionally, it has become more difficult to hire workers for businesses that traditionally rely on tips, and many people have stopped eating out.

“A restaurant is the worst business you can own right now; we just survive. There are no wins. It feels like everything was planned for us to go out of business,” Barrera said.

Barrera said he resisted the temptation to raise prices because customers always notice. Instead, he found ways to save money.

“We put fewer fries with the sandwiches (and) the containers we use for dressing are smaller now and things like that; we have to get creative,” Barrera said.

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Inflation has forced Barrera to downsize. He formerly owned three locations for his restaurant: one in Addison, another in Plano, and the original in northeast Dallas. He closed one and sold another.

It relies on its original location to survive inflation. Three months ago, he increased his employees’ salaries by 20%. Despite this, he struggles to retain employees.

This restaurant has a few outdoor tables. The menu items are written in large white letters on the floor-to-ceiling glass windows: cupcakes, crêpes, omelettes and fresh lemonade. A sign below and to the right reads: “We are hiring.”

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