08/25/05 — Owners feel bite of price at pump

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Owners feel bite of price at pump

By Turner Walston
Published in News on August 25, 2005 1:49 PM

Higher gas prices aren't just hitting drivers where it hurts; they are also affecting local businesses.

Many local business owners rely on the same gasoline to fuel their delivery vehicles, and the rising costs get passed on to consumers. When businesses have to make cutbacks due to fuel costs, the effects reach down to their bottom line.

"It's getting really terrible because everything we do is delivered," said Piper Brock, owner of Piper's Petals florist's shop.

She said the need to stay competitive and the crunch of rising fuel costs are making operations difficult.

"We have to go up on our delivery prices," Mrs. Brock said. "We haven't gone up enough to really cover our costs, just trying to stay competitive."

Mrs. Brock said Piper's Petals raised its delivery charges only once during the recent spike. Delivery charges are set by the distance traveled, she said.

"We might go to LaGrange for $6.50, and that's nothing by the time I pay a driver and for the gas."

Charles Raynor is the owner of Goldsboro Drug Co., which touts city-wide delivery for free.

"It's hurting the bottom line, basically," Raynor said of the rising fuel costs. "We do free delivery to everybody, and we've expanded to cover the city limits and extraterritorial domain."

Although delivery is free to the customers, it's costing Raynor's business.

"We've calculated, and probably each delivery costs us $2.50 to $2.75. Probably now it's $3 to $3.25," he said.

With prescriptions predominantly paid for by insurance companies, Raynor said the delivery cost is unavoidable.

"There's no way of offsetting it. There's no way of recouping that money. It's basically a direct expenditure to the business."

Getting pizza to customers is costing more these days, as well.

"We've had to do something to compensate our drivers," said Brian Merritt, manager of Brooklyn Pizzeria on Spence Avenue.

With his store offering delivery in a 10-mile radius, Merritt said gas prices are having a profound effect on his operating costs. The store also pays more for the ingredients that are delivered by truck.

"It affects us everywhere," Merritt said. "The delivery companies end up charging you a surcharge for the food products because of the gas prices."

Although a minimum purchase must be made for delivery, Merritt said the gas prices aren't going to stop his drivers.

"We try our hardest to stop the gas prices from affecting our customer service. I'd say it's affected us, but it's definitely not going to make us go anywhere."

Gas costs might hit hardest for those who make their living on the road.

"So far we've seen 20 to 25 percent less traffic in the last couple of months," said Wayne Edwards, president of Edwards Truck Service on U.S. 117 South.

Edwards said his tow-truck company is doubly suffering, with construction on the highway cutting down traffic in front of his business as well.

"I've got nine service trucks now that I have to furnish fuel for," he said. Edwards traditionally rents two trucks at a time. For the moment, just one is on the road, Edwards said.

"We've cut back renting as much as possible, trying to conserve energy and conserve prices."

The rising costs directly affect the business's bottom line, he said.

Unfortunately, Edwards can only grin and bear it at the pump. "I guess we have to do what we have to do," he said.