Neighborhood businesses don’t seem nervous about minimum wage increase

Milka Mladenovic, who recently opened Pizza Corner in Edgewater, said she's happy about the minimum wage increase, which she said will help her employees and her customers. RogersEdgeReporter Photo by Naima Woods

(This story was produced by RogersEdge Reporters Olabisi Efunnuga, Elvir Mujkanovic, Samar Mustafa, Kimberly Pope and Naima Woods.)

A sampling of Rogers Park and Edgewater business owners and employees interviewed Tuesday showed little concern about the city’s higher minimum wage, though at least one merchant worried that already slim profit margins would be squeezed further.

The minimum wage in Chicago jumped from $11 to $12 per hour July 1.

Kenny Byrnes, the lone employee at Nibbles & Nosh, 6981 N Sheridan Rd. said he is all for the raise.

“It’s hard enough to make a livable wage,” he said.

Kimberly Cary, who works at Sonny’s Food Store, 7001 N Sheridan Rd, said the minimum wage raise is good for Chicago residents.

“It’s about time, and well overdue,” she said. “Rent is going up, how are people supposed to pay for basic living with a low pay under $10? To be able to take your family out to the movies is impossible.”

She said she has raised her daughter for 20 years by herself and currently has 2 jobs.

“I couldn’t even go back to school to get my degree because of all the time I spend working,” she said.

Byung Lan Whang, 58, co-owns U’n Joy, a beauty supply store at 1125 W Granville Ave, in Edgewater. She’s been running it with her husband for 26 years.

She said the business, like many retail businesses, has been hurt by online competitors. Any increase in costs, like a minimum wage hike, makes it harder for her to make money. In fact, she said she and her husband can no longer afford a staff, and run the store by themselves.

“We can’t afford a lot of employees,” she said, adding that she and her husband have worked alone for five years. She’s not optimistic about the future, saying she hopes the business can last “a couple of years.”

Kat, a manager at Caffe Arrivadolce, 6451 N Sheridan Rd, who didn’t want her last name used, said the increase will affect her business plans moving forward, perhaps causing her to hire less people. But she said the upside is that the higher wage “gives people a better living.”

Jess Scott, 24, is the manager at Metropolis Coffee Co. at 1039 W. Granville Ave. in Edgewater. She said doesn’t expect the change to affect the business much.

“I think everything will stay exactly the same,” she said, adding that she’s been able to plan for the increase. She also acknowledged it will be good for the cafe’s 17 employees.

Metropolis has about 17 employees working in the school year and summer. The school year has always been the best time for business at Metropolis.

Milka Mladenovic is a new business owner in Edgewater. Her Pizza Corner is a pizzeria that offers delivery and carryout, and she’s been in business for all of four days. She believes the minimum wage will help her business.

“Your waitress is happy, customer is happy. The cook in the kitchen is happy with everything, with the salary … then the food is going to be good.”



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