Trenton small business owners meet with federal official amid rising inflation

Trenton small business owners had the chance to discuss their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic with a Federal Reserve Bank president. Those businesses, which survived the pandemic, are now dealing with the difficulties of inflation.

“We just find a way to revamp, regroup and we just keep going,” says Reggie Hallett, executive chef at 1911 Smokehouse BBQ.

The restaurant weathered the worst of the pandemic. And now customers are flocking back for chicken wings and ribs.

“We’re here to stay, we’re not gonna let anything shut us down,” Hallett says. “We’re determined to stay here in Trenton.”

1911 Smokehouse BBQ was one of several stops for Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

“We supervise banks to make sure that the banks are safe, and people’s money is safe in the bank, and conduct lots of research,” Harker says.

Harker is among just a handful of people who have a say in how much interest one must pay on a loan for a car or house.

“By talking to people, real people, running real businesses like we’ve done today, I get a sense of what’s coming. And the struggles they have, the issues they have,” Harker says.

“Business owners are creative. They’re thoughtful. They used delivery in different ways, they used outdoor dining in different ways, they used technology in different ways,” says Tim Sullivan, CEO of the Economic Development Authority.

The owner of 1911 Steakhouse was innovative by creating a patio room to play host to parties and cigar smoking. But business owners are now facing the new obstacle of rampant inflation.

“The go containers are more expensive. Meat’s more expensive. We have not, as of yet, raised our prices,” says Hallett. “It’s hard. It’s real hard.”

Harker says that inflation is too high.

“We’ve got to bring it down because it is hurting real people, particularly people with low-to-moderate incomes,” he says.

Small business owners say that they must tweak their prices without alienating customers.

“The resolve of entrepreneurs, there’s no more well-put-together people than folks who set up a business and are committed to making that business successful,” says John Harmon, founder of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

Harker is not currently a voting member of the Federal Reserve committee that sets interest rates. But he does attend those meetings and participates in the discussion.

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