Small Business Voices: Amy & Chris Hillyard of Farley’s Coffee
The City of Emeryville’s Council-initiated, $14.42 minimum wage ordinance would be the highest in the nation and a 60% overnight hike for most businesses. The E’ville Eye wanted to provide a forum for small business owners and stakeholders to speak out on the personal impacts this will have on them and their opinions on how best to implement this (we’ll be posting a worker perspective piece on this next week). Our third entry is Chris Hillyard who owns Farley’s Coffee on 65th along with his wife Amy. Chris & Amy opened Farley’s along Emeryville’s Greenway in 2010. Farley’s tagline is “Community in a Cup” and they stand behind this by putting their money where their mouth is (including supporting this news blog).
Farley’s is in a unique circumstance as they have three businesses in three different cities all operating with different wage structures (SF, Oakland & Emeryville). With twelve employees at his Emeryville location, Farley’s is right on the margins of Emeryville’s proposed small business definition of ten employees and would be faced with a difficult decision of having to scale his business back to fit within this narrow “phase-in” parameter.
The complete Proposed Minimum Wage Ordinance Draft can be read here. The City will host a special Minimum Wage Study Session on Tuesday at 6:30pm at City Hall with both sides of the argument expected to be present.
Farley’s on 65th celebrates its five year anniversary next month. We have recently renewed our lease for another five years because we believe we have a great product that the people of Emeryville, Berkeley and Oakland enjoy. Emeryville has become very much part of the Farley’s identity and we wish to continue being one of the little gems in town. Farley’s started twenty-six years ago in San Francisco and then six years ago we opened in Oakland. That gives us 37 years of combined operations and the draft ordinance with respect to a minimum wage of $14.42 is potentially the biggest threat to our existence in that time.
Farley’s on 65th makes numerous contributions to the neighborhood that range from featuring a local artist every month, to supporting Emeryville non-profits through a monthly program to raise funds and awareness for their respective causes. To date, we have donated over $5,000 to Emeryville based non-profits. I don’t think many small or large businesses have this track record. We do this because we believe in being a part of the community. We also believe in supporting our employees. Many are like family to us and we do everything we can to provide a great work environment for them.
When Measure FF in Oakland went into effect on March 2, we implemented the same laws for our Emeryville employees. Thus, all employees earning under $12.25, received a raise to that amount. Additionally, all Emeryville employees now receive “sick days” as specified under Measure FF. We made these changes not because we had to, but because we want to treat our employees equitably across our locations. Further, a standardized pay and time-off structure, minimizes the complexities of running a small business. We do not have corporate support to handle our HR, payroll, and other management functions. Thus, every change, variation and management issue is handled directly by an Owner or a Cafe Manager.
While the ordinance currently has a phase-in period for small business, we hope that the City Council can take a more reasoned approach to the definition of a small business. The ordinance cites ten employees as a small business thus eliminating our little cafe of 12! Numerous definitions exist and none other than Measure FF in Oakland, use ten as the metric for defining small business.
At the end of the day, we too see this issue as a matter of economic and social justice. There is an opportunity to lift up the low wage earners in our city. As business owners, we believe this needs to happen and support an increase in the minimum wage. We urge council to do what makes social and economic sense for employees AND employers.
Chris and Amy Hillyard
Owners, Farley’s on 65th
Feature Image: CaliforniaBeat.com