This Pgh ice cream parlor pays $15/hr, filled all its positions, and didn’t raise prices. How it happened

By: - May 26, 2021 6:30 am

Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor in Pittsburgh’s Strip District neighborhood (Pittsburgh City Paper photo).

By Colleen Hammond

PITTSBURGH — As Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor in the Strip District began resuming full operations, the business faced a pair of common problems in the final pandemic days: understaffing and low application rates.

To kill two birds with one stone, Klavon’s owners took the leap of faith and more than doubled their wages to from Pennsylvania’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. The ice cream shop announced this change on April 1.

Just after the wage increase, Klavon’s received more than 1,000 applications for hourly positions in less than a week, Klavon’s co-owner Jacob Hanchar told MSNBC on May 19.

“If we have been loyal to our employees, that pays back in terms of improving business,” said Hanchar. “We filled the 15 positions practically overnight.”

Hanchar added this influx of applications was not the only benefit seen from the wage increase. He also said that his employees are typically in a better mood when they arrive at work now and that they face less burnout. Hanchar said this is because the stability of Klavon’s wages ensures that their employees by and large do not need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

In addition, Hanchar also said that general morale has been lifted, and Klavon’s has seen an uptick in customers since raising wages.

“People want to support a business that’s taking care of their employees,” Hanchar told MSNBC.

Despite concerns that raising wages would increase the cost of goods, Hanchar noted that Klavon’s hasn’t needed to raise their prices and are actually saving money by having less employee turnover.

Now, Klavon’s ownership is challenging other businesses in the area to boost their wages too, according to MSNBC.

In contrast, Pittsburgh also made national news for a food-service worker not returning to the workforce, citing low wages and concerns about his health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jim Conway, 64, worked at an Olive Garden outside of Pittsburgh when the pandemic hit last year and he was making $2.83 an hour, the state’s tipped minimum wage.

After he was furloughed last year, he told the Washington Post that he decided to retire, saying that his low pay and decreased tips were not worth it to risk health concerns around COVID during the pandemic.

Olive Garden has dozens of listings available in the Pittsburgh area, but doesn’t advertise how much their starting wage is on the applications.

University of Pittsburgh economist Chris Briem told WESA -FM that restaurant employment recovery has lagged significantly in Pittsburgh. Overall restaurant employment in the Pittsburgh region is still down more than 12,000 jobs compared to April 2019.

Part of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s platform is raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, and the party its tweeted support of Klavon’s on May 19. The Democrats believe that raising the wage will be good for businesses.

“A $15/hour minimum wage is good for business. We should try it everywhere,” the state Democratic Party tweeted.

Colleen Hammond is a reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared.

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