Hermit Woods Winery asks its customers to help support a living wage for it’s employees

Bob Manley, Chuck Lawrence, and Ken Hardcastle

There has been a lot of talk during this election year, both in New Hampshire and across the country, about whether the minimum wage should be raised. At Hermit Woods Winery, they have stopped talking about it and decided to take action. On August 19th, Hermit Woods will raise the hourly pay rate of all their employees to $15.00 an hour. They will achieve this by charging their customers a ‘living wage surcharge’ of 3.5% on all sales and applying the money raised towards salaries.

Owners Bob Manley, Ken Hardcastle, and Chuck Lawrence explain that they understand all too well how hard it can be to get by on low wages as they have put almost everything they have earned back into their growing company over the past six years. “We have built a hard working dedicated team. We want to be able to reward them with a living wage so they can support their families and pursue their passions in life as we have” says Bob. “Some of our employees are in school or just out of school and have college debt to pay off while others have families to support, two of whom are single moms. If they’re going to work hard to help us grow our business, we want to make sure they have the resources to afford to live.”

New Hampshire can be an expensive place to live with the cost of living about 16% higher than the rest of the country. Prior to this plan, Hermit Woods was making their best effort to pay all their employees $12.00 per hour (a rate that is still higher than the average for similar positions). Based on the research they had done and the cost of living in the Lakes Region, the owners of Hermit Woods Winery felt that simply wasn’t enough. Bob explains, “we are not sure $15 is enough, but it is a heck of a lot closer than $12.”

The owners of Hermit Woods Winery feel strongly about their decision and sincerely hope that their customers will support and embrace it. Unlike many wineries and other similar service industries, Hermit Woods does not encourage tipping. “We feel the surcharge is a better way to ensure everyone is rewarded equally for their hard work” says Bob. “We want to ensure our customers that every penny raised via this surcharge will go towards increasing our employees pay and nothing else.”

Bob, Ken, and Chuck would like to be able to say they were the first to think of this concept, but they are not. Bob recently read a story that was published via NH Business Review about a small restaurant in Vermont, Popolo’s, that began a similar program in June and inspired him to look into the idea. After some research, they learned that several other businesses across New England and beyond have also taken this approach. After talking with Gary Smith, the person behind Popolo’s decision, and other businesses who have taken this step, the Hermit Woods team decided this was the right thing to do.

Bob reports that it is not likely that the 3.5% surcharge will cover all the costs of increasing everyone at Hermit Woods to $15 an hour, but the owners of Hermit Woods wanted to identify a number that would get close while not asking too much of their customers. You can learn more about their plan by visiting their website: www.hermitwoods.com

Hermit Woods Winery is a boutique winery located in Meredith, NH. They produce a wide variety of grape, fruit, and honey wines, mostly from local, often organic fruit and styled after the old world dry wines of Europe.

For more information please contact Bob Manley by calling 603.253.7968 or emailing, bob@hermitwoods.com

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