Ben Grossfield fills a Childers Limousine van; the firm says gas for a trip to Metro costs about $32.50.
With gas prices well past $2 a gallon and no relief in sight, John Childers estimates he has six months to make a decision: Either increase prices for trips to Detroit Metropolitan Airport or move Childers Limousine Service north where there is more business, leaving merely a satellite office in Toledo.
A trip to the airport, in Romulus, in a 15-passenger van costs $103, a price Childers customers already protest, Mr. Childers said. But once the Toledo business pays drivers $31 a trip, office employees $9 an hour to handle arrangements, insurance and maintenance bills for vehicles - and, now, about $32.50 on gas for each ride - little if anything is left, the owner said.
"We're getting to a point where we're not making any profit," Mr. Childers said.
Many local businesses involved with transportation, deliveries, lawn care, and other services are dealing with rising gas bills, making moves that ultimately could affect customers. Some are reluctant to increase prices but are considering it; others have increased fees, to a chorus of complaints.
River East Flowers in East Toledo started increasing delivery charges last month by $2 to $8 for a trip outside the immediate area, owner Tracey Skiver said.
"I'm not sure that's enough now with it rising again," she said. "Gas is just ridiculous."
Some River East Flowers customers have been understanding, Ms. Skiver said, but others have canceled their orders. Meanwhile, Ms. Skiver decided last summer to include in her ad in the telephone book that the business delivers free to funeral homes, a promotion that has proved costly, she said.
"It's just something I have to take a loss on," she said.
Over in Port Clinton, Put-in-Bay Boat Line Co. opted not to raise rates for the Jet Express ferry service because it didn't want to pass on increased gas costs to customers in a difficult economy, said Lance Woodworth, director of operations.
Instead, the company is going to find ways to cut costs elsewhere, he said. "We're just going to manage ourselves better."
Tough competition has forced Tender Lawn Care to lower its prices for a decade, but this year bills may go up about 5 percent, said Brian Miller, owner. Gas guzzles up about 10 percent of the South Toledo business' gross income, although some expenses are recouped in tax deductions, he said.
"Fuel costs are huge," said Mr. Miller, whose business also is rebounding from a fire this month. "The profit margin just keeps getting closer and closer and closer."
Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:
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