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High Gas Prices Hit Local Business

HIAWATHA, IA (KGAN/KFXA) - There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight as the gas price yo-yo continues to swing. In the past week there’s been a surge in prices at the pump. While the national average is now at $3.62 a gallon, its higher in Iowa at $3.97.

For Peppy’s Ice Cream truck driver, Cleo Close, the increase at the pump makes it more expensive to do the job she loves.

"They usually just wave or say, ‘ice cream’," Cleo happily explained as she drove her truck down the streets of Hiawatha.

"I love it, I love to see the smiling faces of the kids," Cleo added.

Cleo is an independent contractor and while she’s driving her ice cream truck around town at 5 miles an hour, she’s the one that foots the gas bill.

"We’re paying about 35 to 40 percent of our income," Close said about her bill at the pump.

The surge at the pumps in the Midwest is a trickle-down effect from problems at several oil refineries. Difficulties with the supply chain that converts crude oil into gasoline or diesel are costing folks like Cleo.

"It cost me $400 to fill up last month," Cleo said.

Gas prices in the Midwest have increased up to 40 cents a gallon in the past week. That’s an average of about $4.00 a gallon for Iowa.

"It affects me because it’s harder to get drivers and keep them," Tim Bird, Peppy’s owner said.

Keeping drivers matters to Cleo’s avid customers like Andrea Hutchcroft who comes running when the truck drives through her neighborhood every Thursday.

"She got off the couch really fast and was like, where’s my money? Where’s my money? The ice cream, the ice cream!" Andrea’s mom, Lori Hutchcroft said.

Andrea added, that she comes running because she doesn’t want to miss her shot at a treat from the ice cream truck.

"That’s one thrill, and one excitement that she has!" Hutchcroft said.

So Cleo is finding ways to keep the excitement going.

"Hy-Vee does their fuel card, and I’ve been able to save some there," Close said.

"We’re selling stuff for $1-$3, so it takes a lot of customers to make that pay out for the drivers," Bird said.

In tough times and for new drivers, Bird helps where he can with the cost of gasoline. Despite the flux in gas prices and the economy, he has only increased prices one time in the past seven years.

Close is also making due. She said as long as she can, she’ll keep driving, enjoying the tune of her ice cream van. That’s even though it only gets 7 miles to the gallon.



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