Grocery costs rising due to gas prices

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

Shelby County residents are paying for rising gas prices at other places than the gas pumps.

Jerry Spates, a Harpersville farmer, is feeling the pains of rising prices firsthand.

“(Gas prices) affect gas, fertilizer and about everything else,” Spates said. “I’ve got an 18-wheeler truck I haul lime with, and fuel was $3.79 this morning. I put $500 in this morning, but my credit card cut off, and I didn’t get it full.”

Spates uses diesel fuel to run his farming equipment as he tends to crops such as wheat, cotton and soybeans, but as a working farmer, he can’t let the gas prices affect his work.

“I can’t let it affect anything, because you have to have what you need to make the crops,” he said. “If you start cutting corners, you’re going to start costing yourself more money.

“You just have to bite the bullet and hope you make more money to pay for it,” Spates added.

When asked if customers will end up paying the difference, Spates said he hopes he won’t be the only one paying more in the end.

“Somebody’s got to pay. It’s a domino effect,” he said. “You expect it’s going to be passed on. You’re already hearing prices in the grocery store are up, which you’d expect.”

Wayne Johnsey, manager of Columbiana’s Piggly Wiggly grocery store, sees the grocery store’s products’ rising prices, which are directly related to rising gas prices.

“Gas prices are up across the board,” Johnsey said. “Suppliers have been adding fuel surcharges.”

Two years ago, when gas prices spiked, companies began charging a fuel surcharge to businesses that sell their products. As the rising gas prices subsided, some businesses did away with their fuel surcharge, while some kept the charge in place, Johnsey said.

Currently, the companies have either added a fuel surcharge or increased the surcharge in response to gas prices, he said.

“Every time they deliver to us, they’re delivering a flat fee and calling it a fuel charge, and it’s increasing prices,” Johnsey said. “It’s started in the past year, and it’s certainly added to the bottom line.”

Sue Lemieux, one of the owners of Fox Valley Restaurant in Maylene, also sees a rise in the cost of products and a fuel surcharge or “trip fee” from her suppliers.

“There has been a slow — or not so slow — rise in prices in every product we buy,” she said. “Last time this happened a few years ago, (our suppliers) threw on a trip fee, but they never took the fee off. We saw trip fees last time, but now we’re just seeing rises in gas prices.”

The restaurant’s menu hasn’t changed, however, as the owners haven’t raised prices in response to the gas prices.

“We haven’t raised our prices, but it may come to that,” Lemieux said. “We haven’t done that yet.

“We’ve had a different business theory since we opened to be fair with our customers. If eight months from now things are still outrageously priced, my accountant will tell me I have to raise prices,” she added with a laugh.

Lemieux said eggplants have tripled in price, and the cost of dairy products and crabmeat has gone up. She orders crabmeat from Virginia, and she said she’s paying $7 more per pound than before gas prices starting rising.

“We’re paying the fee and not complaining,” she said. “We just try to roll with these things. I mean, what can you do? That’s always my theory.”