Denver’s minimum wage workers were greeted with pay raises to ring in the new year.
While this is good news for employees, it can be a difficult adjustment for some local small businesses.
Denver’s minimum wage was raised to $17.29 this year from $15.87 last year.
One small business owner who’s seen its impact first-hand is Mary Lovett of Maggie and Molly’s Sweet Life Bakery in Cherry Creek.
Lovett is now changing the menu prices to match the city’s new regulations.
“I’m trying to figure out what the best prices are and comparing them to other bakeries and other caterers in the city.
It’s been six years since we last changed our prices, but Denver’s new minimum wage is forcing us to do so in order to keep our five employees.
“It’s something I believe in and something I voted for, but it always knocks me back a little bit,” Lovett said.
Denver’s new minimum wage is up nearly 9% from last year.
That said, while higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and the statewide wage of $13.65, even with the new changes it’s still hard to survive in Denver.
But it helps Inga Wittgraf, the cookie decorator, baker and designer of Maggie and Molly’s Sweet Life.
“It makes a huge difference. I don’t think I could have stayed here if I was getting paid as much as when I started working here,” Wittgraf said.
Wittgraf has worked at the store for nearly four years.
Her wages have increased in recent years since the city’s minimum wage ordinance was passed in 2019.
But even with the new pay increase, her income is still less than the Denver area median income.
“I like my boss. Most of the customers are great and I enjoy it more than any other job I’ve had,” said Wittgraf.
To keep up with demand, inflation, and staff, Lovett plans to keep raising prices until it can keep up with new changes.
“We will continue to look at prices to see where we are making more money to keep the business going,” Lovett said.
When new city rules come into force, a team of audit offices, Denver Labor, investigates and guarantees company payments and monitors companies that don’t follow the rules.
Last year, the team collected over $1.1 million.