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Small Businesses Worry This Holiday Season

Denver’s local businesses are suffering from inflation and rising costs going into this holiday season. Monica Megei and Oscar Hernandez own and operate Mia Cocinita, a Mexican food truck located in Globeville. Megei said her first step into restauranturing was a simple hot dog stand, and though they worked many years to open Mia Cocinita, the logistics have grown difficult; choosing between their own income and keeping prices down. Megei said some people get upset when she is forced to raise prices.

“Sometimes they understand, sometimes they don’t,” said Megei. “In December, we plan on raising them another dollar.”

Food prices at Mia Cocinita have already been raised by 50 cents. Megei would let customers choose between less avocado or less protein in their food in an attempt to keep prices the same, but regulars told her they’d rather pay more than go with less.

Ninja Ramen, a food truck that can be found outside of Long Table Brewhouse in North Park Hill, also had to increase their prices. 

]“It was just crazy like, meat vegetable, egg, everything,” says Midori Fujishige.

Owner of Genna Rae’s Wings and More, Genn Dickerson, has experienced similar issues while operating his restaurant in Five Points. Dickerson immigrated from the Virgin Islands to start a career as a mechanic. In 2016, Dickerson decided to pursue his “true passion” and opened Genna Rae’s to share his cooking with his community.

“It’s not like it used to be,” said Dickerson. “Holidays; I used to get catering jobs, but not anymore. I’m trying to keep the doors open because I like the people of the neighborhood.

Dickerson also increased prices on a menu item by about 50 cents. With business slowing, Dickerson had to cut his employees hours, and the new bump in the minimum wage starting this January has him worried whether the restaurant can remain open. Customers assure him they’ll stick around.  

I asked ‘If the price goes up, you’ll understand?’ and they said they’d still support us.”

This January, the new minimum wage will be $17.29 an hour in Denver.  The announcement that the minimum wage would increase was the “final nail in the coffin,” for the Book Bar on Tennyson Street in Berkeley.  In a heartfelt message to her customers, owner Nicole Sullivan explained why she will be closing her doors following this holiday season. The price of doing business in Denver and fatigue after the COVID-19 led her to a difficult decision. 

“Those couple of years took a toll on most of us in all of the ways: mentally, physically, and certainly financially. As society began to reopen, I knew that spaces like BookBar were what the community needed most to come together again, to feel a sense of normalcy” said Sullivan. “I felt strongly that our community needed us. But…I also realized my family needs me more right now.”

The problems these businesses have faced due to the economy have not soured their holiday season. Each owner expressed deep gratitude for their community’s support through and after the pandemic,  Inflation mixed with rising wages and higher rents threaten the sustainability of small businesses, but many owners are still determined to keep their doors open, as long as their communities will support them.

NOTE: Mimi Herrick produced the video in this story.

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