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A muffin? That’ll be $5.50. (Thank inflation.)

Samantha Fields Jun 21, 2023
Heard on:
Blue Sky Bakery in Brooklyn, New York, has had to raise its prices to keep up with its costs. Samantha Fields/Marketplace

A muffin? That’ll be $5.50. (Thank inflation.)

Samantha Fields Jun 21, 2023
Heard on:
Blue Sky Bakery in Brooklyn, New York, has had to raise its prices to keep up with its costs. Samantha Fields/Marketplace

Every other customer who walks into Blue Sky Bakery in Brooklyn, New York, seems to know the owner, Erik Goetze, and the manager, George Mason. They’ve been fixtures behind the counter, and in the kitchen, ever since Goetze opened the bakery 20 years ago. 

“We do everything here,” Mason said. “The baking, take care of the front of the house, everything.” 

Blue Sky is known for its muffins. That’s not all you can get there. There are breads too, cinnamon rolls, croissants, savory pastries. But it’s the muffins — big and fluffy, full of giant chocolate chips and nuts, hunks of fruit and whole berries, in all sorts of unusual combinations — that bring most customers in. 

The best seller: pumpkin apple walnut. There’s also raspberry mango bran, carrot peach walnut, zucchini raspberry chocolate chip, cranberry apricot, the list goes on. Everything’s baked fresh every day right in the back.

These days, a muffin at Blue Sky costs $5.50. A whole dollar more than it did a year ago.

And while a New York City muffin is probably more expensive than a muffin in many other places, baked goods are much more expensive all around the country now than they were a year ago. According to the latest consumer price index data, bakery products that you’d buy at a grocery store cost 10.7% more than they did last year. Eating at a restaurant (or a bakery) is 8.3% more than it was a year ago. Though the month-to-month increases are slowing down. 

At Blue Sky, Goetze said he held off on raising prices as long as he could, but eventually he had to — the prices of almost all his main ingredients started spiking in 2021 and stayed high into 2022. 

Eggs (for a while, anyway). Flour. Butter

“Butter was $2 a pound, up to $4 a pound,” Goetze said. “Now it’s dropped back to about $3 a pound.” 

A large refrigerator holds eggs, blocks of cream cheese, gallons of milk, large sticks of butter, cream, apples, and other ingredients.
A peek inside the Blue Sky Bakery refrigerator. (Samantha Fields/Marketplace)

Then there’s the price of frozen fruit, which they use a lot in baking. 

“They went up and didn’t come down,” Goetze said. “Raspberries, for example, I think they were somewhere around $3 a pound frozen. They’re now at $5 a pound.”

It’s not just the edible ingredients. It’s also paper bags, coffee cups, sleeves for those coffee cups. 

“I feel like everything’s kind of snowballed,” Goetze said. “Insurance prices are higher. Minimum wage continues to go up,” he said. “So it’s definitely a challenge. And people don’t like to pay more. It’s hard toeing that line between keeping the clients, keeping the customers happy, and also making it a viable business.”

Blue Sky has two kinds of customers: wholesale — other cafes and shops that buy its baked goods — and retail, the people who walk into its Fifth Avenue shop in Brooklyn for coffee and a muffin. 

In the last year, Goetze raised his wholesale prices twice and his retail prices three times. In little increments, but still. 

A lot of the wholesale customers pushed back against the increases, saying things like, “We can get bakery goods, we love yours but we can get them from other places,” Goetze said. “I don’t think we lost any of them, though. I think they eventually realized this is the way things are moving.”

Customers who come into the bakery have not protested as much, he said. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t noticed.  

“I mean, $5.50 seems like a lot for a muffin,” said Chris Liu, who lives around the corner from Blue Sky.

“I don’t know, though,” he added. “You always go back to when you were, like, a kid. And so I don’t really trust my own judgment because I’m like, oh, muffins should be $1.50!”

That sounded low to his wife, Anne Lin.

“I remember muffins to be, like, $3.50 or something like that,” she said. Lin does most of their grocery shopping and pays close attention to how much everything costs — and how much it’s changed.

“I buy a lot of fruits, they went up a lot. Canned, preserved products, pasta went up a lot,” she said. “Dried pantry pasta, it used to be $1.79, and now it’s, like, $2.49 or something like that. I’m like, yeah, that’s pretty crazy.”

But even though they notice everything getting more expensive, it hasn’t really changed much of what they buy. And now, inflation has finally started to ease for all sorts of things, including food. Which Lin has also noticed.  

“After, like, the end of last year, it didn’t go up that much anymore,” she said. “So it’s been a couple of months that it’s been plateauing.”

Blue Sky Bakery manager George Mason (left) and owner Erik Goetze in front of the store. (Samantha Fields/Marketplace)

That’s been the case at Blue Sky Bakery. Goetze hasn’t raised prices this year — not yet, anyway. 

“But, time will come, and we will also have to raise the retail and the wholesale prices again,” he said. “For sure.”

When it does come, he thinks his customers will understand. 

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