Photo by Stella Beerman
The smell of warm bread fills the air inside the Bagel & Deli Shop, 119 E. High St., where the owner, Gary Franks, works behind the counter during a rush, which often lasts until 2:30 a.m.
Franks starts all of his employees at Ohio’s minimum wage, $8.55, plus any tips they make during the shift. Employees may earn a salary increase depending on longevity at the shop and leadership positions they might take on.
This week on Capitol Hill, legislators are figuring out how to raise the minimum wage in America. Democrats fight for an increase to $15 by 2025, while Republicans argue for an increase to $10 by the same year.
Franks opened the shop in the early 2000s after completing graduate school at Miami.
“I never saw myself staying in Oxford,” Franks said. “But after I finished school the offer was there and I wanted to give it a try.”
For Bagel & Deli, raising the minimum wage would not be a big deal, Franks said.
“From a business standpoint, it really puts everybody on a level playing field,” he said. “We might have to raise prices a little and keep schedules efficient, but at the end of the day the price of everything in the business costs a little more every year anyway.”
Franks said he doubts most customers would notice the price increases as they would be so subtle.
“We’d be talking about like a quarter price increase, so it wouldn’t be anything overwhelming,” Franks said.
The staff at Bagel & Deli is mostly made up of Miami students. According to Franks, most employees enjoy their jobs and work there until graduation.
Anna Skalicki, a junior at Miami, worked in the shop until last October when she had to quit due to schedule conflicts. She agrees with Franks and loved her job at Bagel & Deli.
“I worked Friday nights, 10 p.m. until close, and it was super hectic but it was really good work and the atmosphere was really fun,” Skalicki said.
But when it comes to making minimum wage in a business, Skalicki said she thinks some people deserve to make more.
“While tips definitely make up for it most nights, some of the weekend shifts could definitely be paid more,” Skalicki said. “I guess you know what you’re signing up for, but at the same time it’s really hard work.”
Those tips are also unreliable, Skalicki said.
“Once COVID hit, things got really weird and we really weren’t seeing those tips anymore,” Skalicki said.
However, Bagel & Deli employees are not the only ones who think raising the minimum wage will impact Oxford. Jessica Greene, Oxford’s assistant city manager, said she believes increased wages promote high-quality jobs.
“Anytime you can help people who work in Oxford to also live in the community, it’s a good thing,” Greene said.
Despite an increase in the minimum wage to help stabilize the community, Greene also admits these conversations are hard to have in the face of a pandemic.
Just as employees have lost tips, business owners have experienced a decrease in sales due to COVID-19.
“Devastating. I’m going to use that word, devastating… for our restaurant and retail segment of the community,” Greene said. “Businesses are hardly making it as it is. We’ve seen staff reductions and business not hiring new staff, so there have been great determinants.”