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Bookstore owner says next week's minimum wage hike will hurt

Bookstore owner says next week's minimum wage hike will hurt

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Washingtonians making less than $11.50 an hour are getting a raise Monday, Jan. 1.

That's because the state minimum wage is going up from $11 in 2017 to $11.50 for 2018.

Bookworm Tri-Cities owner Cindy Bitzer said the mandatory wage hike is going to cut into the money she uses to keep her small-business profitable.

Her bookstore is 44 years old and she said it's developed quite a loyal clientele over the years.

"What's better than buying a book that you don't have to pay full price for? I mean you can't get better than that," Bitzer said.

Bitzer said she'll be relying on book lovers like these to survive this, and future, wage hikes.

The schedule published by Washington State's Department of Labor and Industries shows the minimum wage going up to $12 in 2019, then jumping to $13.50 in 2020.

"You always want your employees to be happy," Bitzer said. "But other than that, I don't see anything positive from it."

To keep her books out of the red, Blitzer will be trimming those happy employees' hours back, pick up the slack on her own time.

"I personally have to be here more often," Bitzer said. "I don't want to do that but its the only thing that we can try to do to try and get back on track where we need to be."

Because Bookworm Tri-Cities pricing is based on a percentage of what each book's publisher sells the book for, she said her prices are staying put.

"There's really no way for me to raise my prices based on how we've done business for the last almost 44 years," she said.

Bitzer said it's similar for folks like her all over the country.

"Everybody that voted for this didn't realize the consequences for the small businesses and what it does to us," she said.

She plans to power through, that there's no room for fear.

"If I was scared I think it would tank quick," Bitzer said. "I think it would go under. We've been around this long, I'm hoping that the community will keep supporting us and realize that we're here and we wanna give them their next favorite book."

Bitzer said the tier system of gradually increasing the minimum wage is better than it hitting all at once, but that it's still going to hurt if folks don't get out there and use the extra money at small businesses.

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