Inflation Deflates Some of San Diego County's Small Businesses

Business owners struggle to keep prices competitive for customers

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Sean Harris looked at the wall of taps and sighed. He hasn’t raised prices at Serpentine Cider in Miramar since he opened more than four years ago.

The inflation rate in San Diego County is challenging his resolve, though.

“It’s terrifying to see what you’ve worked for for so long start to fall apart and unravel,” Harris said.

Harris barely survived the roller coaster that was the pandemic, he said. Government assistance helped, but the inflation rate might finally get him.

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“Our costs have just gone through the roof, and our profits have gone through the basement,” Harris said with a sigh.

Apples from the Pacific Northwest are the primary ingredient in his ciders.

“That [price] has increased about four times in the last 15 months or so,” Harris said.

“Rough,” Mona Aquino said with a shrug. “Extremely, extremely challenging.”

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Aquino owns Pauly’s Pizza Joint, which is a couple miles away from Serpentine Cider.

“Our flour used to cost $18 — now they’re $33 a box,” she exclaimed.

Aquino said her pizza boxes are ridiculously expensive. They used to cost roughly 35 cents each.

“It is now $1.14!” Aquino said. “For a box!”

The price increases for items vital to both small businesses underline the problems both owners face.

“I’m not going to sell my pizza three times as much," Aquino said. "We’re going to lose more customers."

“Everyone’s in this pandemic together,” Harris said. “I don’t want to increase prices to customers who have been hit as well.”

Both business owners know something has to give, however.

“At some point, you’re going to realize tha,t ‘Hey, we just can’t make it,’ ” Aquino admitted.

“It’s terrifying,” Harris aid. “Just don’t know. You don’t understand what’s happening.”

Harris recommended customers do their best to shop local because that money will likely stay local a lot more than money spent at national chains.

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