Local business owner says it means tough choice to stay open amid inflation

MILWAUKEE — Inflation is at its highest level since 1981. That means people like Milwaukee small-business owner Ashley Ingram have to make tough choices every day to keep her restaurant running.

Re’Nesha Donson

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

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

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

But those rising prices mean some days she’s losing money.

“I served customers and didn’t earn as much as I spent on food,” Ingram said.

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

Marquette economist Abdur Chowdhury says that comes from a variety of sources, including pandemic-related supply chain issues, strong consumer demand, the war in Ukraine and soaring gas prices. He says there is no quick change that can fix inflation.

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Rebecca Klopf

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

“For the average family, that basically means you’ll find higher prices for food, higher prices for gasoline,” Chowdhury said.

To put things into perspective, the inflation rate is currently 8.5%. In March of last year, it was 2.6%, according to the US Department of Labor.

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Rebecca Klopf

A customer receives a loaded potato from Who’s Cooking inside Sherman Phoenix.

One thing that could possibly help is to raise interest rates, which the Federal Reserve is already doing. He announced that a more aggressive rate hike of half a point will likely come at the May 3 meeting. When this 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 interest rates and they will continue to do so in the next two months, and at the same time the government is trying to lower the price of energy, to lower the price of energy” , Chowdhury said.

Although people like Ingram are resisting the price hike, she says she has to pass on some of the costs or risk closing.

“I didn’t want to raise my prices because I know times are tough and I always want people to come and buy good food. But it’s forcing my hand now that the prices have gone up,” Ingram said.

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

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