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NYC bodega owner had no choice but to raise prices

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Bodega owner Wilfredo Baez, 37, has kept his Carroll Gardens shop, Willy Deli Grocery, open rain, snow or shine for more than 16 years. And while bacon, egg and cheeses aren’t selling like they used to, closing isn’t an option.
A few weeks ago, we had a big rush. People were buying toilet paper and Tylenol like crazy. Now, we’ve taken a big hit as things have slowed down.
Our deli counter, which is normally very busy, now is mostly only used by construction workers, which hurts. We cut back hours, from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.
I had to cut back on staff hours, too. Right now I have two people when I usually have three or four working a shift. But I’m just giving people a week off here and there to make sure everyone is still getting some work.
In the store, we all wear masks and gloves and wash our hands every half hour, no exceptions. We have a few bottles of Lysol on hand and clean the credit card machine after each use.
The worst is that I’ve been forced to raise prices because wholesalers are charging me more. Gallons of water, plus toilet paper and Tylenol, I have to charge about two more dollars for than normal. I’m making less money on it all, but trying to keep it in stock. I’d feel bad charging any more.
But a lot of customers have been telling us how grateful they are that they can still come in. We stayed open during [Hurricane] Sandy, and we’ll ride through this, too.
— As told to Melkorka Licea
Read more stories about surviving the coronavirus pandemic.

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