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Local business owner says tough choices to be made in order to stay open amid new inflation records

Posted at 5:45 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 19:20:46-04

MILWAUKEE — Inflation is at its highest level since 1981. It means people like Milwaukee small business owner Ashley Ingram has to make hard choices everyday to keep her restaurant running.

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Ashley Ingram shows a customer what is on the menu for Friday. (April 22, 2022)

Ingram owns Who’s Cooking inside Sherman Phoenix. The mother of two young boys knows the cost of items she needs to run her business down to the penny.

"Heavy cream was $2.19. It went up to $4,” said Ingram."

But those rising prices mean some days she loses money.

"I have served customers and I didn't make as much as I spent in food,” said Ingram.

The higher prices come in part from inflation, the overall rising cost in goods.

Marquette economist Abdur Chowdhury says that has come from a variety of sources, including supply chain issues from the pandemic, strong consumer demand, the war in Ukraine and the skyrocketing gas prices. He says there is not one quick change that can fix inflation.

Ashley Ingram, the owner of Who's Cooking waits on a customer inside the Sherman Phoenix. (April 22, 2022)

"For the average family, basically, it means that you will find higher prices for food, higher prices for gas,” said Chowdhury.

To put it in perspective, right now the inflation rate is 8.5 percent. In March of last year, it was 2.6 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A customer gets a loaded potato from Who's Cooking inside Sherman Phoenix.

One thing that could eventually help is raising the interest rates, which the Federal Reserve is already doing. It announced a more aggressive rate hike of half a point will likely come during the May 3 meeting. When that happens, it means it will cost more to borrow money to buy things like a house or a car.

“The Federal Reserve Bank is raising the interest rates and they will continue to do it in next couple of months, and at the same time, the government is trying to lower the energy price, bring the energy prices down,” said Chowdhury.

Although people like Ingram are weathering the price increase, she says she has to pass along some of the costs or risk shutting down.

"I didn't want to go up on my prices, because I know there are hard times and I still want people to come and buy great food. But it is forcing my hand now that prices have gone up,” said Ingram.

Some economists predict these above average prices could last until 2023.

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