Soaring milk prices may be taking a bite out of the profits of the ice cream business, but so far some local retailers are freezing prices on ice cream cones, shakes, and sundaes.
Marcia Helman, owner of Penquin Palace in Maumee and Lickity Split on Glendale Avenue, said that this was the first time in 26 years her supplier has passed on price increases during the summer.
"I have already had an increase in prices from my supplier, and they are telling me that I am going to get more," she said.
At Chuggy's Ice Cream and Deli in East Toledo, business has never been better, so much so that owner Chuck Hymore hired an extra employee to serve walk-ups.
"We are up about 20 percent over last year," he said.
Other shop owners also said their sales have climbed during the recent warm weather.
But prices have been a key concern for the operators.
The price of milk has risen sharply in recent months, in part because of demand for byproducts from milk and in part because of higher prices for corn. That grain is the main feed for cattle, but also is in demand from
makers of the alternative vehicle fuel ethanol.
So far, Ms. Helman has absorbed a 7 to 8 percent cost increase from a Michigan ice cream supplier as well as surcharges that some companies are adding for higher fuel costs.
She said she doesn't feel it is fair to make customers pay more for cones, milk shakes, and sundaes.
Recent sunny and mild weather has pushed sales 5 to 6 percent higher than last year.'s
Mr. Hymore said he has paid higher costs for ice cream and supplies, as well as fuel surcharges.
He has resisted passing them on to customers.
The shop at East Broadway and Oakdale Avenue charges $2 for a large cone.
"I am trying to keep it affordable," he said. "This is a working-class neighborhood."
Hurt by fuel prices has been Edward Chapman, who owns a fleet of Yummy Treats ice cream trucks.
"Business is always good. People love us. But [the price of gas] is taking a chunk out of the bottom line," he said.
In years past, he said, he sent as many as 20 trucks to neighborhoods in Toledo and the suburbs, but he has sliced that number to a dozen.
And he is charging customers more for some of the cold treats, he said, adding, "It has been a tough year on us."
Sales of packaged ice cream have declined about 5 percent during the first three months of the year, to about 110 million gallons, according to the International Dairy Foods Association.
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