Can bougie bodegas make it in NYC?

Posted On Tue, October 23, 2018 By

Posted On Tue, October 23, 2018 By In City Living, gentrification

Image: Clover Grocery via Facebook.

There was a time not too long ago when New Yorkers began to resent the apparent gentrification of local bodegas, which had begun carrying high-priced, healthy food items sought by new neighborhood residents. Chain convenience stores like 7-11 were yet another blow to the concept of the quirky corner deli. And then, of course, there was the Whole Foods effect. The latest development in the ascent of the local grocery store is even more difficult to grok: The “wellness bodega” has arrived. As Eater reports, mini-markets–like Clover Grocery in Manhattan’s West Village–in metro areas like NYC and LA are stocking items like $18 “vegan friendly” condoms and marine collagen supplements–and confusing the daylights out of ordinary city folk.

Clover Grocery, purveyor of sweet potato hummus and osetra caviar in addition to the aforementioned top-shelf prophylactics, was called the city’s “most obnoxious food market” by the New York Post. Its genre also includes Bonberi in the same neighborhood, which calls itself a “plant-based bodega” and has been referred to as a “wellness concept store.”

In LA, Moon Juice opened in Venice six years ago and has expanded to several locations, offering shoppers natural skincare potions, activated turmeric pepitas and fresh juices. And salad chain Sweetgreen opened an upscale grocery boutique called The Tavern in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. The market carries locally-sourced edibles like pickles, kombucha, honey, frozen yogurt, and produce and prepared items served in Sweetgreen restaurants. It’s not an actual tavern, though, since no alcohol is sold. The Goods Mart, which was born in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood, calls itself a “socially conscious alternative to the modern convenience store” and recently opened a NYC outpost with plans to expand to 50 locations across the country.

Another entry on the confusing upscale canteen scene is Silicon Valley’s Stockwell, an automated kiosk stocked with sundries and essentials. The startup made the mistake of calling their vending machine concept “Bodega,” which led to an offended outcry and a subsequent name change. And, of course, somehow elevating the whole business to a new level of disruption fatigue, coworking-slash-everything company WeWork has gotten into the game with an in-house convenience store called WeMRKT and intends to open 500 WeMRKTs in cities across the U.S.

We’re reminded by Rachel Krupa, owner of The Goods Mart, that, “Natural food always costs a little more because of the quality of the ingredients,” and of studies that confirm that emerging generations are far more health-conscious and prepared to pay top dollar for food they consider healthy. And it’s hard to complain about Americans making healthier choices. It’s likely that the resentment felt toward “bougie bodegas” of every stripe reflects the growing pains felt in 21st century city neighborhoods, where the issues involve affordability as well as preserving the character that was embodied by the admittedly cruddy corner deli. One thing is clear, though: Late-night grocery runs definitely aren’t what they used to be.

[Via Eater]

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Neighborhoods : West Village

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