BANGOR – Increasing the minimum wage has helped put money into the pockets of the working poor, but the owners of one business in town says it has forced them to close.
Bangor Redemption & Beverage Center on Broadway has closed its doors and laid off eight employees.
“That is the number one reason that we are closing,” said owner Paul Baron. “The state of Maine controls the handling fee that we are paid for doing redemption work, and that has not been increased since March of 2010. And with the increase in the minimum wage — up to three dollars — and an additional dollar next year, we have no way to recoup that added expense.”
“You cannot absorb a dollar an hour for three years without any kind of increase in the capability of making money,” said Wendy Baron, Bangor Redemption & Beverage Center human resources manager.
The state’s minimum wage increases began two years ago, on Jan. 1, 2017, when the rate jumped from $7.50 to $9 an hour. In 2018, it increased to $10 and this week it rose again to $11. Next year, it will go to $12 an hour.
“The first year the cost went up $1,400 a week,” Paul Baron said.
“When you get up to $11 or $12 an hour — that’s a lot,” he added later.
Other contributing factors include that more redemption centers have opened, propane is now available at many convenience stores and the state is currently working on improving Broadway.
“Anytime there is construction in front of your business, you lose business,” Paul Baron said. “It’s a double whammy. We’re seeing it from all angles.”
“My crew that I have right now has been with me for a very long time,” said Wendy Baron. “It’s been really hard to let them go. They have been loyal. They’ve done a good job for me and it really hurts. It’s been the hardest thing for us to do.”
The business opened 36 years ago and also has a bunch of regulars, who are considered family.