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'We're making it on a wing and a prayer.' Inflation hits Danville businesses with surge in costs.

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For Phi-lly Cheese Steaks & Things co-owner Deborah Parks, costs for sandwich ingredients have soared.

“We really are upset you have to raise your prices to keep ordering your supplies,” Parks, who owns the Riverside Drive eatery with her husband, Donald, said last week. “For us right now, we’re making it on a wing and a prayer.”

Costs for items such as meat, cold cuts, cheese and produce including lettuce, tomato, onions and green peppers have shot up by 75%, she said. Wings gone up from $89 a crate to $149 a crate and four blocks of cheese have increased from $89 to $152, Deborah said.

They have had to raise prices on menu items by about 15%, including charging 15 cents for each vegetable on a sandwich, Parks said.

“Before, we didn’t charge for vegetables on a sandwich,” she said. “Now we do. It’s still not covering costs, but it’s helping just a little bit.”

Businesses across the city are feeling the pain of surging inflation that has been occurring nationwide for several months.

The consumer price index for January, which measures the costs of dozens of everyday consumer goods, increased by 7.5% compared to the same month last year, the U.S. Department of Labor reported last month.

Dr. Gary Miller, a cardiologist and the owner of Cardiology Consultants of Danville, said costs of items for his practice ranging from envelopes for sending bills to glass thermometers to gloves and masks have increased significantly.

“There’s not much that hasn’t gone up,” said Miller, who is also Danville’s vice mayor.

The price tag for gel applied for echocardiograms has increased by 30% to 40%, he said, adding that there have been surges in costs for billing sheets (40% to 50%), covers for glass thermometers (50%), and Clorox wipes (50%).

Table paper, which patients sit or lie down on while seeing a nurse or doctor, has gone up 30% to 40%, Miller said.

“We have supplies that come from overseas,” he said. “It’s hard to get them here and they’re getting more expensive.”

Higher sales help

For Rippe’s Apparel Furs Shoes Lifestyle store on Main Street, wholesale prices have gone up 5% to 10% across the board, said general manager and buyer Sam Rippe.

However, sales have been robust since the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Rippe said.

Inflation has not hurt Rippe’s, he said.

“It’s not caused any major issues for us yet,” Rippe said. “We had a pretty good year last year as demand came back.”

Sales were as strong in 2021 as they were in 2019 before the pandemic hit, Rippe said.

“It’s the busiest we’ve been since I’ve been here,” Rippe said.

Rippe’s father, Ben Rippe, said manufacturers are starting to raise prices of products if they’re made in places such as Indonesia or other parts of Asia.

“They have to pay eight to 10 times more for the container [shipping],” Ben said.

The Rippes are buying as much as they can from North America, including Canada and Mexico, to reduce costs, Ben said.

Housing and more

As for the real estate, Wilkins & Co. Realtors supervisor Shaenice Jones said rents have gone up in the city, but not because of inflation.

“A lot of owners are increasing their rent,” Jones said. “They are doing more repairs and upgrading their properties.”

It’s hard to say how home energy costs will be affected by inflation — as well as Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, said Danville Utilities Director Jason Grey.

“Energy prices are a national concern right now because of the issues in Ukraine and Russia,” Grey said. “I can’t predict the future. It’s something we’re going to have to monitor going forward. We’re coming out of the heating season and warmer weather is coming, so there’s not going to be as much demand for natural gas customers.”

A barrel of U.S. benchmark crude oil surged past $100 Thursday after Russia invaded Ukraine. Natural gas prices also soared, even as operators say pipelines operated as usual, the Associated Press reported late last month.

Prices for both dropped after U.S. and European officials said sanctions against Russia would not interrupt energy supplies or payments through banks for shipments of oil and gas, the AP reported.

Natural gas prices in the U.S. are approximately 60% higher than a year ago, the AP reported.

The cost of natural gas affects electricity prices since a significant portion of electrical generation comes from natural gas, Grey said.

Many U.S. households also are struggling with high home heating bills, spending 40% more on home heating oil and natural gas compared with the same time last year, the AP reported.

“We’re watching how actions in the political [arena] and issues over Europe, how they’re going to affect energy prices in the U.S.,” Grey said. “It’s not just going to be Danville, it’s going to be the whole country and the whole world.”

Danville Utilities offers rebates towards HVAC replacement units, new furnaces and other items to provide relief for customers.

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