Chillicothe small business owners are feeling the effects of high gas prices

CHILLICOTHE—Small business owners in Chillicothe are seeing the effects of high gas prices, but most are waiting for the storm to pass.

On March 8, President Joe Biden signed an executive order banning the import of Russian petroleum, liquefied natural gas, and coal into the United States following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Gas prices rose across the county with averages reaching as high as $4.24 per gallon. In Ross County, gas hit as high as $4.19 a gallon.

After: Gas prices continue to climb in Ross County

Jerry McCray, owner of McCray-Feltis Lawn Care, is restarting his landscaping services this month. He said he gave his customers a cost estimate at the end of last season, before gas prices rose, and he intends to stick to the initial estimate.

In business since 1985, he suffered the effects of fluctuating gas prices. He said his equipment doesn’t use a lot of gas, but the truck can back him up.

However, McCray said there was not much he could do about it.

“I mean, you have to have the gas, you can’t mow without it,” McCray said. “I just have to absorb [the cost].”

While small business owners are feeling the effects of increased delivery prices for their goods and services, they are also seeing the high cost of purchasing supplies and goods for their business.

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Michelle Maynard, owner of Chillicothe Floral Company, said she was trying to keep prices competitive and as low as possible despite high petrol prices. She said that just as goods for her business became more available again, gasoline prices soared.

Her floral business delivers flowers throughout the county, so deliveries to rural areas now cost significantly more. However, Maynard said she only raised prices at those places “50 cents on the dollar difference. We don’t want to scam.”

Apart from the delivery costs on her end, she also experienced an increase in the prices of the products entering the store. Items like fresh flowers are more expensive as they travel long distances to get to Chillicothe.

“You have to work with it and deal with it. If it stays that way, we’ll have to make permanent changes, but hopefully we can ride the wave,” Maynard said. “I really try not to push myself too far.”

Jimmy Pendleton, owner of the West Side Meats-N-Eats food truck, has already hiked his menu prices by about $1 to offset gas and supply price increases.

Having opened his business last year during a pandemic, Pendleton is used to price fluctuations. He expects gasoline prices to continue to rise through the summer.

He said he’s been forced to cut some expensive items off the menu altogether and “replace them with more comfort foods and foods for depression, stuff like that. And people seem to like that.”

Pendleton said he spends about $40 on gas a week. Now he spends between $60 and $65. Pendleton is better off than some food trucks because it usually operates from the same location and doesn’t have to move the truck. However, he still takes the truck out about once a month.

Gas prices have also increased its supply costs, such as plastic silverware and food wrappers.

“I started my business because of COVID, because of inflation and I’m still growing,” Pendleton said. “You have to think about cheaper and more affordable food for people…You have to be crafty.”

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Introduced on March 17, the Gas Rebate Act of 2022 is a bill that will send a $100 energy rebate payment to Americans in any month the national average gas price is above $4 a gallon.

Eligibility would be based on income. Eligible taxpayers would also receive an additional $100 per dependent.

Biden also announced on March 31 that the White House will release an average of more than one million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for about six months to help lower gas prices.

Megan Becker is a reporter for the Chillicothe Gazette. She can be reached at 740-349-1106, email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @BeckerReporting

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