On Wednesday, news from the tech world drew the ire of New Yorkers citywide. Fast Company reported that a new startup, which is calling itself Bodega, is planning to disrupt our beloved corner mom ‘n pops by setting up “5-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with nonperishable items you might pick up at a convenience store.” These bogus “Bodegas” have already launched in San Francisco, but co-founder Paul McDonald told Fast Company he plans to distribute them nationwide. His vision: “100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.”
The concept is not only weak — they’re basically app-operated vending machines — but hostile to small businesses everywhere, and a particular affront to New York City bodegas. A box containing sundries like tampons and pretzels is no substitute for the experience of strolling into your local corner store at any hour of the day or night for a bacon egg and cheese, or a beer, or a packet of Advil, chatting with your bodega guy, saying what's up to your neighbor, (trying to) pet the bodega cat. Here’s what Metro staffers had to say about why they love their bodegas and couldn’t live without them.
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Joshua Crouthamel, features editor
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
I don’t know my bodega owner’s last name, but I trust him with a spare set of my keys! He’s the first person to meet any Airbnb guests I may have when out of town and also my go-to when I’ve locked myself out (note to self: adult better).
Kimberly M. Aquilina, web reporter
Neighborhood: East Flatbush
When I moved to my new neighborhood, it was after a breakup. My local bodegas, in particular one I like to frequent, made this new section of New York (where I knew no one) a homey neighborhood for me. You get to know the owners, cashiers know what you like when you walk in and nothing — and I mean nothing — beats a bodega bacon egg and cheese after a late night of drinking. Also, when I get home after a long shift and need some grub STAT, I step off the train and into a bodega. No need to wait for Seamless.
Charlotte Frunzescu, office administrator
The last time I tried to buy a Mega Million ticket with my credit card, my local bodega lent me two bucks in good faith that I’d be back, win or lose.
Sheila Dougherty, copy editor
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
So what if a pint of Ben & Jerry's is $8 at the bodega? Sometimes, you just need it, and it's there. And that's what makes NYC, NYC — you have access to this stuff 24/7 provided by other New Yorkers who recognize you, who, if you desperately need a packet of Advil but are short 10 cents, will say, "forget it" or "bring it next time." A vending machine will never do that for you.
Also, are you walking home at 3 a.m. and and that guy who followed you off the train is creeping you out? Duck into the bodega for some candy.
And what about the deli cats? Bodegas provide jobs for felines, because they keep rodents at bay. Is it a health code violation? Yeah, but the fine costs less than an exterminator. And the deli cats are awesome.
Bodegas make a hard city human. This [startup] is as awful and soulless as those "dog house" machines.
Nikki M. Mascali, staff reporter
My family quite possibly would starve without BLTs, smoothies, halal and sausage, egg and cheese bagels from our bodegas — and yes, we frequent three in our Harlem neighborhood. No other establishments in this city greet us as warmly at the store or our door, probably because they’re practically family now.
Rachael Vaughan Clemmons, TV & entertainment editor
I love my bodega because it gives me everything I need — and plenty of stuff I don’t, or that I didn’t even know I needed — in one place. A lifetime supply of Mexican Coke? Check. A gooey Philly cheesesteak that is delicious when I’m very inebriated that I will eat as I drift into a boozy, listless sleep? Check. Cold medicine, band aids, incense, and the love of a feline who barely knows me? All checks. It’s such a special experience that’s built into the culture of New York life. Also, pantries belong in kitchens, duh.