New Yorkers explain why they love bodegas, from cats to community

New Yorkers dish on why they love bodegas so much. Above, the Natural Food Deli Inc. located on Third Avenue in East Harlem on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.
New Yorkers dish on why they love bodegas so much. Above, the Natural Food Deli Inc. located on Third Avenue in East Harlem on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Photo Credit: Vin Barone

There are few things that New Yorkers will openly express their love for; bagels, pizza and bodegas definitely make the cut.

An empty subway car that is not smelly or lacking air conditioning is up there too, but let’s not get off track.

A new startup company called Bodega that could become stiff competition for small, mom-and-pop stores plans to expand outside of the San Francisco Bay area, where it has already installed more than 30 boxes filled with convenient store items in places like gyms and offices, business magazine Fast Company reported Wednesday. The company’s founders plan to open more than 1,000 Bodega boxes nationwide by the end of 2018, according to Fast Company.

Although there are no known plans, as of now, to bring Bodega to New York City, that didn’t stop people on Twitter from expressing their horror over the idea that their beloved corner store could be replaced.

Bodegas are a New York institution. Nearly every New Yorker will tell you they have that one corner store, that one small hole-in-the-wall spot near their work or home where they choose to pick up a needed item despite its dingy, often unkempt appearance.

So why do New Yorkers love their bodegas so much? Let us count the ways…

“Kinda hard to put into words! The community vibe, the friendliness, the quirkiness, the ‘old NY vibe’ that’s slowly disappearing…We were sooo sad when the 24-hour one closed on 58th and Second (Avenue). It got replaced by a Dunkin. This was 5+ years ago,” Rebecca Muth said.

“BEC,” said Chelsea Sorrento – that’s a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich for anyone who lives under a rock.

“I regularly depend on my local bodegas for three things: a cheap cup of coffee, a bottle of seltzer and a pint of ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia is somehow always in stock). I have my pick of three all within a block of each other – all open 24 hours, so I don’t have to worry about closing time,” Meredith Deliso said. “The closest pharmacy chain is a 20-minute walk from me, so it’s not much of an option in a pinch anyway. But even if it were closer, I’d still prefer the bodega. I love the loyalty and familiarity you develop with your local bodega – in a city that always changes, it’s nice to have one thing you can count on.”

“The people who work there + the convenience. Bodegas are the cultural glue for the streets and people of New York,” Mark Ballard said.

“The cats . . . Bodegas provide so much more character, charm, and better-quality food and merchandise (believe it or not) than another corporate gross 7-Eleven,” Dan Berkowsky said.

“I go to my bodega over anything else because it feels like home. The cashier says what’s up when I walk in,” said Ja-Quan Greene. “I can crack jokes about the “Game of Thrones” beer they conveniently “keep forgetting” to stock up on. It’s a family affair.”

“Because at 3 a.m. I can stumble in all haggard and buy a Mike’s Hard with no judgment. And I’ll probably meet a cat,” Agatha Anna Hope said.

“Definitely all about access to beer, sandwiches and junk food 24/7 at a place not named 7-Eleven. It’s also an excuse to go outside and run into some sort of free NYC entertainment,” Stephen Macho said.

“Growing up in Brooklyn there were two bodegas within two blocks of my house and I would go every Wednesday before my after school activities to load up on snacks. There was always what felt like an endless amount of chips, candy and drinks and I could afford it all with the small allowance I was given,” Alison Fox said. “When I got older, going to the bodega was just more convenient than going all the way to a drugstore, especially if you just needed something small like a little milk or ice. And there’s always something nice about supporting local businesses.”

“The unique variety that makes each bodega have its own personality cannot be beat. Maybe this will be less costly because you don’t need people, but I hate it,” David Sandowski said of the Bodega startup. “Why don’t we just get rid of people for all jobs? That’s next.”

We’re sure bodega cats would have quite a bit to add to the conversation too, if they could talk.