Missouri Grocer Combating Inflation as the Nation Buckles Down

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner
Jessica Marie Baumgartner
Jessica Marie Baumgartner
Freelancer
Jessica is the Missouri reporter for The Epoch Times, and has written for: Evie Magazine, The New American, American Thinker, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, and many more. She is also the author of, “The Magic of Nature,” “Walk Your Path,” and “The Golden Rule.”
June 22, 2021 Updated: June 22, 2021

Prices have risen five percent in the past year, an increase that the U.S. hasn’t experienced since the 2008 recession. Many business owners are adjusting costs, but one local Missouri open-air market has a different strategy.

The Epoch Times spoke with Mike Orlando, owner of Anthony’s Produce in St. Peters, Missouri, about the current economic situation and how his business is serving customers. This local produce wholesaler and specialty grocer has been in business for 24 years. When asked about working throughout the pandemic, Orlando said “It was definitely difficult times and we have several elderly people that work here [who] stopped working. We also had a lot of parents who chose to make their children stay home and not continue to work during the pandemic. We were short-staffed due to the high volume of sales. Being an outdoor market, most people had a tendency to go to a place like ours versus the [indoor] grocery store.”

Anthony’s is supplied by both local and wholesale sources. While the pandemic left many grocery stores understocked, the owner noted, “As far as the fresh fruits and vegetables, it was not that difficult to keep a steady supply because, as everyone recognized, the restaurant industry slowed down quite a bit which freed up some inventory for us retailers. However, the supply chain was very broken for a lot of the small local products suppliers that we use.”

Despite the current economic state of the country, a recent Missouri Economic Research and Information Center report found that the state currently hosts the ninth-lowest cost of living in the country. The Assistant Commissioner for Performance & Strategy told The Epoch Times that “Missouri is consistently a low cost of living state, ranked 9th in the most recent report for the 1st quarter of 2021. In general, that means each dollar has more purchasing power in Missouri than in many other areas of the country, which is a benefit to Missourians and those looking for an affordable place to live.”

Orlando said “Being located in the Midwest is definitely part of the business model here as far as the cost of doing business. The produce industry is different depending on which region of this country you’re located.”

Still, balancing costs with consumer demands is an ever-pressing challenge in today’s market. When asked about what Anthony’s is doing to address this issue, Orlando said, “It’s been difficult just trying to figure out exactly where to cut costs trying to keep expenses down. The cost of freight getting the produce across the country to the Midwest has in some cases doubled, causing the case prices to be much higher than normal for this time of year. Getting day-to-day supplies like trays and bags and other consumable products we use to prepare items here have greatly increased as well. Not to mention that in the state of Missouri the minimum wage increase over the last couple of years has definitely put a strain on small businesses in our area. A few things we have changed was to incorporate more items we carry to our consumers that have a higher profit percentage. We’ve also had to gradually raise our retail prices on produce due to the increased costs.”

He went on to note, “I definitely feel like we, on a daily basis, save the average consumer on their grocery bills. We try to provide the highest quality product we can for the cheapest price. Being a small business we do have less overhead and we do have the ability to pick and choose what we buy and where we buy it from. That personal touch that we add to the day-to-day operation is reflected in the product that we provide.”

Despite the hardship of the pandemic, Orlando added, “We have been blessed in the fact that during the pandemic it sent a lot of people to us that had never shopped here before. I would like to think a lot of those people have become regular customers because they enjoyed their experience here. Sales have not been affected that much on the retail side. We do a lot of wholesale business with local institutions and restaurants, in that side of our business did suffer quite a bit during the pandemic, however, it does seem to be getting back to normal, but not necessarily to the levels it was prior to.”

Across the country, states are working to strategize for rising inflation. Food shortages are being reported and shelves are once again being cleared. The Epoch Times asked Orlando why he thinks prices vary so differently from state to state, and he pointed out that “Produce comes from many different countries and states. Depending on where this product comes from greatly affects the price.”

Lastly, he had a bit of advice to offer national chains which may be struggling to understand the individual needs of customers throughout the nation. He laughed, “Some of the things that we found important didn’t seem so important once the pandemic hit,” then went on, “We personally pay attention to the feedback of our customers face-to-face, through social media, and email. We try to do a few things very well instead of a lot of things half-heartedly. We also try to stay ahead of the buying trends as we understand them.”

Jessica Marie Baumgartner
Jessica Marie Baumgartner
Freelancer
Jessica is the Missouri reporter for The Epoch Times, and has written for: Evie Magazine, The New American, American Thinker, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, and many more. She is also the author of, “The Magic of Nature,” “Walk Your Path,” and “The Golden Rule.”