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Gas prices, economy hurting small-business owners

Local business owners say their businesses are being hurt because of rising gas prices and the economy.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Everybody knows the economy has gone down the tubes – from the man who lays down tubes for backyard sprinklers to the courier who brings lunch.

But add $2.61 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in a state of double-digit unemployment – it climbed to 11.1 percent in May, an all-time high, according to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission – and your neighborhood painter is seeing red.

"We're no better off, right now, than we were a few months ago when gas was cheaper," said Ron Yerry, who owns Yerry's Painting and Repairs in Hope Mills. "It helped us then, but not, it's going right back to eating the profits we do know."

Yerry has had to cut staff. So has Penny Yepez, who owns Roadrunner Courier Services in Fayetteville.

A year ago, she had 10 employees. Now, she's down to three, because of a combination of gas prices and a sour economy, and might have to make more cuts.

"You're stuck in a situation where you've got accounts, people cutting back on their accounts and not being able to pay the drivers more when they're paying more for gas," Yepez said.

Gas prices have risen about 60 cents a gallon statewide since May 1. AAA Carolinas predicts they will jump to about $2.75 a gallon in August before dropping.

Sterling Kemp, who owns Kemp Lawn and Garden in Fayetteville, figures that as much as 15 percent of his budget goes to fill gas tanks.

"You used to go in every time and fill up. Now, you go in, you get $40 worth, you get half a tank," Kemp said.

He also uses fewer workers on jobs.

Six months ago, as the economy was going into the ground, gas at $1.50 per gallon made it a bit easier to take.

"You would pay $55 to fill it up," Yepez said. "Now, it's $80. That's a huge difference."

It's a huge difference, she says, that she's trying to close by thinking small.

For example, Yepez cut things around the office to close the gap, such as stopping her water deliveries for the water cooler.

“And it’s a small thing, but when you start cutting back, it’s the small things,” she said.


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