Small businesses in Dallas, feeling the pinch of rising costs, are struggling to stay open

A hair salon had to raise prices. A dry cleaner cannot get the plastic bags he uses for cleaned and ironed clothes. A restaurant serves fewer fries with each order.

With inflation at a 40-year high, it’s increasingly difficult for small businesses to stay open and continue to provide jobs that support thousands of families in the Dallas area.

These businesses are being squeezed in many ways — more expensive supplies, higher utility bills, higher wages and, in many cases, fewer customers staying away from the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 97 percent of all businesses in Dallas County are small businesses, with about 50,000 in Dallas alone, according to the 2020 census.

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Many have stayed open thanks to pandemic relief programs like the Wage Protection Program or Disaster Loans. The Small Business Administration distributed $34 billion to Dallas-Fort Worth businesses in 2020 and 2021.

But galloping annual inflation, which reached 9.1% in June, threatens the viability of small businesses.

Three businesses located together in a shopping center at the intersection of Abrams Road and Northwest Highway in northeast Dallas, shared with Up to date how they deal with the economic crisis.

“Tough Time”

“Everything is piling up after the pandemic and it’s hard for us to keep the business going,” said Maria Garcia, owner of Lizy Beauty Salon. “Things were just beginning to settle when gas prices went up and (the prices of) everything else skyrocketed.”

Garcia, 62, who opened her beauty salon 22 years ago, said she often received requests for work before the pandemic. But now finding workers is more difficult.

“The girls were always coming in asking for work, but (we) were fully staffed. Now I can’t find anyone who wants to work. I’ve been signing up for ‘Employees Wanted’ for months and they come in for interviews and never come back,” Garcia said.

With three vacant seats in her salon, revenue is shrinking. People still need a haircut but don’t want to wait any longer on Friday and Saturday, the two busiest days, and leave when they see a long waiting list.

To make matters worse, hair styling products are also more expensive.

So Garcia had no choice but to raise prices. The general haircut went from $16 to $18. Color retouching now costs $70, up from $65 just a few weeks ago.

When many workers stopped going to their offices or attending official events during the pandemic, they also stopped sending their clothes to the dry cleaners.

“Everything that people send to the dry cleaners is related to events and they were canceled,” said Syed F. Mendy, 62, owner of Sterling Cleaners. “We reopened and everything was going well, then prices went up and it became hard to find products at reasonable prices.”

Mendy, who is known to customers as Frank, said a box of wire hangers he could have bought for $42 last year costs him $65 today.

Chef and owner Fernando Barrera talks to a customer about ordering food at this Latin Deli restaurant, Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Dallas. The restaurant is one of many Spanish-owned businesses that have been hit by inflation.(Ben Torres/Special Contributor)

“Just Surviving”

Next to the cleaners is Latin Deli, a sandwich, smoothie and dessert restaurant that chef Fernando Barrera opened in 2011.

Restaurants are among the businesses most affected by inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ June report, the food cost index rose 1.8 percent since May, with prices for butter, sugar, flour, grains, baked goods and dairy products rising sharply.

It has also become more difficult to hire workers for businesses that traditionally depend on tips, and many people have stopped eating out.

“The restaurant is the worst business to own right now; we are just surviving. There are no profits. I feel like everything was designed to put us out of business,” Barrera said.

Barrera said he resisted the temptation to raise prices because customers always notice. Instead, he has come up with ways to save money.

“We put less fries with the sandwiches (and) the containers we use for dressing are now smaller and things like that; we have to be creative,” Barrera said.

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Inflation forced Barrera to downsize. He owned three locations of his restaurant: one in Addison, another in Plano and the original in northeast Dallas. Close one and sell another.

It bets on its original location to withstand inflation. Three months ago, he raised the salaries of his employees by 20%. However, he struggles to retain workers.

This restaurant has several outdoor tables. Menu items are written in large white letters on the floor-to-ceiling glass windows: cupcakes, pancakes, omelets and fresh lemonade. A sign just below reads, “Hiring.”

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