GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Many small businesses continue to struggle and now a growing number of pizza shops in the Grand Rapids area are closing.
Just over a year after Rico Nelson took over Franco’s Pizzeria on Alpine Avenue in Walker, he had to shut the store down. He’s far from the only one.
“Business usually takes a while to get your niche and get it figured out,” Nelson said. “But it’s just so hard with the uncertainty of the future right now, you know?”
It’s the perfect storm facing small businesses right now: employee shortages, rising food and gas prices and supply chain issues.
Nelson needed four employees to run Franco’s Pizzeria, and he usually only had two. When he did find workers, many did not stick around long.
“They’ll come in and maybe work a day, then not show up the next day, call you at the end of the week and ask when payday is,” Nelson said. “It gets to the point that you’re just throwing money away at hiring them ’cause they’re just gonna be gone anyhow.”
It forced him to ask friends to help out around the shop.
“Old friends come around to help me out,” Nelson said. “Guys that got full-time jobs. They’re just coming in. They’re just loyal.”
Recently, Nelson has paid more in order to make pizza sauce, get meat and even flour.
“I never knew flour came from Ukraine and Russia,” he said. “I didn’t really know that. I just knew that we ordered flour. And now that’s gone up to 30 bucks where it was 22.”
For Dale Begerow, the owner of Roberto’s Pizzeria, the rising food prices especially impacted his business.
“Pre-pandemic, it was $13 a bag for flour,” he said. “It’s now $28 a bag for flour.”
Roberto’s on Plainfield Avenue closed on April 31 after a year and a half in business. Begerow still owns another Roberto’s location in Wyoming.
“I held on 6 months longer than I should’ve,” Begerow said. “I was hoping we would see some type of decrease in our food products, and we just haven’t.”
Begerow said food prices went up between 80% and 130%.
“Ground beef tripled in price,” he said. “All of your pork products are 80% to 100% more expensive than they were.”
Brick Road Pizza Co., which used to be located on Wealthy Street, also closed in January of this year. Begerow says he’s worried for small businesses.
“When you take your life savings and pour your heart and soul and finances into this business and then you lose it, where do you go from there?” he said. “How do you start over? For those who pour everything into one location and swing for the fences and lose it, it’s miserable.”
As for Nelson, he wants to reopen eventually, but it’s no guarantee.
“Do you do all of that, spend all the money, throw good money after bad, reopen to the same problems or even worse in the fall?” Nelson said.
Nelson said he’ll be spending more time with his son, and hopefully one day he’ll be able to reopen the shop and have it run efficiently with fewer employees.
Begerow said it’s important for people to support small businesses in their community.
“The more you can support us, the better chance we can have to stay open long-term and be there for you,” Begerow said.