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From chocolate to real estate, small businesses are trying to create inflation game plans

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A sign in front of a home for sale in San Francisco.

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Inflation rose to a pace not seen in 40 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday. That doesn’t just mean consumers are seeing higher prices. It also means the small businesses that set some of those prices are facing tough decisions, like whether they can actually afford to raise them.

For Kristin Thalheimer Bingham, co-owner of Dean’s Sweets in Portland, Maine, the answer is no, for now. “It’s a calculation, of course. We can’t read our customers’ minds,” she said. “But we do have a feel for the price point that we think they’re comfortable being in, so that’s really why we haven’t increased our prices.”

Still, prices of raw materials are climbing, and that means the pressure is mounting. “The cost of cocoa has gone up, prices for shipping have gone up,” Thalheimer Bingham said. “One of our sugar suppliers recently added a fee, probably due to gas prices.”

Maaike Fettah, owner of Sunshine Alchemists and Soap Co. in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is less worried about rising prices than about managing inventory, especially materials to make candles. “Wicks,” Fettah said. “There was a huge wick shortage, and you can’t make candles without wicks.”

And in real estate, it’s not necessarily inflation per se that’s shaping the market, but something closely related: interest rates.

“I can barely keep up with what’s going on in the real estate market in San Francisco right now,” said Cynthia Cummins, a real estate agent and owner of Kindred SF Homes. “Everybody is scrambling to buy while interest rates aren’t too high, and they’re also scrambling to get their properties on the market.”

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