Samir Chehade is feeling the heat of rising prices. Chehade, owner of  Gyro and Kabob Grill, 7660 McCart Ave., is running his restaurant as food prices have risen the most since the 1980s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

To adapt, he’s increasing prices on his menu by 20%. That’s nothing compared to the prices he’s paying to make the food, he said. One case of chicken thighs that used to cost $35 now runs about $143. A case of chicken breasts costs nearly $200, he said. To adapt and pay his employees, he pays himself every other week.

“I’m sacrificing my own money for the business,” Chehade said. 

Signs on the door and in front of the cash register let customers know about the prices.

A sign that says: "Attention: due to high inflation, we unfortunately need to increase your by 20% to stay in business and continue serving you high quality food. Thank you for your understanding"
A sign outside Gyro and Kabob Grill informing customers prices will increase by 20%. (Seth Bodine | Fort Worth Report)

As inflation soars, small businesses all over Fort Worth like Chehade’s restaurant are feeling squeezed by price increases and smaller profit margins.  

Relief may be in sight for businesses and consumers. Some raw ingredients in the producer price index lowered, giving economists hope that prices will lower as it costs less for producers to make products, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage. The producer price index is the prices producers pay for goods. 

Julie Percival, regional economist for the Dallas regional office at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said that could be because of the strength of the American dollar right now.

“That’s generally what you see when you see a strong dollar is that the cost of imports become a lot cheaper,” Percival said “So that’s not surprising, but that can really help with the cost of other inputs to goods.”

Still, inflation the top concern for 34% of business owners in a survey from the National Federal of Independent Business.

For some, the effects of inflation means less inventory, raising prices of products and less hiring. The Fort Worth Report spoke with several small business owners about how rising prices are affecting them. 

When the pandemic hit, Chehade closed the dining room and shifted to deliveries only. He laid off servers during the shutdown and kept the cashiers. In the meantime, he’s been renovating the dining room and adding a hookah lounge that hasn’t opened yet. A shortage of workers is stopping him from re-opening the dining room. He now works with a team of nine employees. 

Chehade has high hopes that prices will go down, and he’s seen a little bit of relief. But he fears if the prices continue to stay high, it will tip his business overboard as he loses customers. 

“It doesn’t matter how much you’re going to sacrifice,” Chehade said. “You’re not going to make it. You’ll be forced to shut down.” 

Each purchase, a little more expensive 

Amy and Hunter Young, stand in their store, West 7th Wool, on Aug. 3, 2022. (Seth Bodine | Fort Worth Report)

Hunter and Amy Young, the co-owners of a Fort Worth yarn shop, West 7th Wool, are spending a lot of time updating price labels as distributors raise prices and shipping costs go up.

“It’s making each purchase a little more expensive,” Amy Young said. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of yarn have taken a dive and then slowly increased. Factors such as the global supply chain and labor shortages have contributed to supply price increases, they said. 

As people have less disposable income, spending on hobby items like yarn goes down. 

The decrease in consumer spending affects business with some of their distributors, which requires sales minimums. In response, the business has downsized in yarn inventory. Customers seem to be OK paying more, Amy Young said. Sometimes, they get requests to hold yarn for longer so a customer can save for gas.

The yarn industry, like the economy, goes in cycles, Amy Young said. Summer months are typically slower for the yarn industry and tend to pick up in the winter months. That’s why they organize online events and participate in others such as the North Texas Yarn Crawl. 

Hunter and Amy dye their own yarn as well as buy from distributors. The price of dyes has gone up, Hunter Young said, but they haven’t raised their prices yet. He hates raising prices, he said.

Relying on family 

Mohammad Rahman sits in his Texaco gas station on 2700 E. Rosedale on July 28, 2022. Rahman has been the owner of a Texaco for 30 years. The work is hard, he said. He works 14 to 16 hour workdays and relies on his family for help. (Seth Bodine | Fort Worth Report)

Mohammad Rahman, has seen inflation come and go over the 30 years he’s owned a Texaco gas station at 2700 E. Rosedale St. He said his business has only existed this long because it’s family run with his wife and their son. He said he can’t afford to pay for additional employees. 

“It would be impossible to pay the employees the wages because the margin and the profit of this business is so narrow, especially on the gas,” Rahman said. 

The work is tough, Rahman said. He’s often working 14 to 16 hour days, and doesn’t take vacation or have much family time. But he likes being his own boss.

When the price of gas rises, business slows, he said. 

Gas stations don’t make a lot of money on gas. The average markup on gas is about 35 cents and a retailer only gets about a third of that in profits, not accounting for taxes, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores

He’s raised the prices for about a quarter of his products inside the station; the rest have stayed the same. Rahman said he’s had to go to different distributors to get a better price on Coca Cola and a few other products. 

“These bigger companies, they don’t care if we make it or we survive,” Rahman said. “But they don’t understand that if we don’t survive, they won’t either.” 

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.

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Seth Bodine

Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....