MOUNT VERNON — As gasoline prices climb, small businesses that rely on transportation have to keep a close eye on what it costs them to deliver their products. And as the price of a gallon of regular gas closes in on $4 and the possibility of $5 looms for the summer, businesses are feeling the pinch.
A check of a few local businesses found them keeping a wary eye on the situation. Some have had to raise prices or delivery fees, others are trying to hold the line.
Dirko’s Pizza on Coshocton Avenue raised its prices two or three weeks ago. Manager Don Parker said their food supplier had raised prices, so they had to as well.
“We have to pass it on,” he said.
As for delivery prices, he said they have a $1 fee for lunch delivery and $2 for evening. “We had free delivery for 25 years,” he said, explaining that a couple years ago everyone started charging delivery fees and they could go up if gasoline prices continue to climb. Dirko’s started in Columbus 31 years ago and has been in Mount Vernon 17 years.
“Everybody’s hurting” from the gas prices, Parker said, but, maybe surprisingly, business volume isn’t hurting.
Donatos Pizza on High Street, has raised its delivery price.
“We raised our price a quarter about a month ago,” said General Manager Amy Owens.
“We’ve always had a delivery charge and never tried to hide it,” she said. “If gas goes to $5 it won’t be good. The price might have to go up again.”
One thing she has noticed recently, is that more customers are picking up orders while running other errands instead of paying for delivery. She couldn’t say how much more of that there has been, but based on her 19 years of experience at the Mount Vernon store, it has been noticeable.
Domino’s Pizza had to add about 25 percent to what it pays drivers for mileage. “Domino’s provides us with a rate chart and every Monday we look at gas prices and figure out what mileage rate we pay that week,” said local Domino’s franchise owner Russ Mentzer.
So far, however, they have avoided raising prices, Mentzer said. “Prices are up for everything, but so far we haven’t raised prices. In fact, we lowered them on our value menu due to the economy. In fact, we got more for pizza 28 years ago when I started with Domino’s. We’ll try to provide the same great product and services and ride it out.
“We want to be loyal to our customers just as they have been loyal to us.”
Ginny Williams, owner of the Cookie Cupboard on Columbus Road, said the price of gas hasn’t forced her delivery price up yet, but if prices keep climbing or if it looks like prices will stay high, that will probably change.
“I deliver to all of Knox County. If gas prices get much higher I’ll have to increase rates. I don’t know that it’s a huge problem but it will cut into profits.
“Gas prices have almost doubled and the delivery charges have to cover my time, wear and tear on the vehicle as well as the price of gas. If prices continue to climb and don’t come down, I will have to increase rates.”
“I try to plan deliveries” to minimize time and gas use, she added.
Local florists echoed Williams’ comments.
Deb Burgholder, owner of Designs By Deb on Fredericktown-Amity Road, in business for 17 years, said she has charged the same delivery fees for several years and has no plans to raise them.
“I can’t afford to lose business,” she said. “I keep delivery charges low as a convenience to my customers.”
“Gas prices definitely have an impact but the bottom line is that’s what full-service florists do — make deliveries. You try to plan routes and do what you can to save, but delivery charges are minimal compared to something like having an appliance repairman come to your home.
“Eventually I may have to raise delivery fees, but for now I’m holding fast.”
Lori Amstutz, owner of Williams Flower Shop on South Main Street, sounded a similar theme: “It hits you hard, especially when your talking about hitting $5 a gallon.
“We figure our prices and delivery fees are high enough. We had to raise them a few years ago, so we’ll have to try to live with it.
“It’s definitely a concern. We try to make sure drivers take the quickest routes and don’t have to go to the same area out of town more than once a day. We also call ahead to make sure people are at home. I understand that sometimes people want to surprise someone, but we have to call ahead.
“The flower shops in town also work together. If one of us is making a delivery to a funeral home, for example, we’ll call each other to see if they also have deliveries to the same place.
“I hate to see this,” Amstutz said. “I thought we were starting to see the economy turn around but this (gas at $5 a gallon or higher) could kill people.”