Small business owner says minimum wage increase will make it hard to make ends meet

Cindy Bitzer says state lawmakers don't understand the struggles of a small business owner.

The fifty-cent minimum wage increase is putting pressure on small businesses to make ends meet here locally.

Last year, Action News talked with the owner of The Bookworm in Kennewick about the challenges they face with the climbing minimum wage.

In 2018, Cindy Bitzer told us paying her employees $11.50 was going to be a struggle. They made it through last year, but now that minimum wage is making another jump, Bitzer is worrying all over again.

For most businesses paying their employees more means raising prices, but for Bookworms, it's not that easy.

“We can't just raise our prices,” Bitzer said. “We can't do that because of our policy.”

That policy is that used books are 50 percent off cover price. It's been that way since 1974. Meaning Bookworms only raise prices when publishers do.

“Which doesn't happen often,” Bitzer said. “Doesn't happen as often as people would think.”

Washington is one of 20 states increasing minimum wage on January 1. Washington will sit at $12.00 an hour making the statewide minimum wage one of the highest in the country.

“Being a small business owner, we don't have a lot of the perks that chain stores have so we have to do what we have to do to make our business run smoothly,” Bitzer said.

Bitzer says she doesn't feel represented by state lawmakers.

“Unless they come in and see what we're about and literally spend a couple days with us, that's the only way they're going to really truly realize what we do as small business,” Bitzer said.

In 2018, Bitzer brought in things like socks, candles, soaps and tea to make up for the minimum wage increase, but she says profits were down in 2018.

“It's either make it work or shut the doors, and I’m not willing to do that,” Bitzer said.

This year she hopes her six hardworking employees and customer service will help bring in more business.

“I think it will be fine. We'll just power through and do what we have to do.”

Bitzer says being a small business makes it hard because her employees are like family. She says she wants to give them a livable wage but with the taxes and cost of running her business she's being forced to beyond her means.

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