New York City bodegas and delis are fighting back against 15-minute delivery startups. A group representing local grocers, the Save Mom-and-Pop Business Coalition, rallied on Sunday with elected officials, calling out the venture capitalist-backed services they say threaten the city’s small businesses. The rally took place outside of Stop 1 Deli, a Lower East Side bodega located directly across the street from GoPuff, one of the delivery services in question. Delivery services like GoPuff have moved into large spaces on commercial strips, morphing them into warehouses stuffed with groceries and other goods.
Several ultrafast grocers have launched services across the city, including Fridge No More, Buyk, JOKR, Gorillas, DashMart, and GoPuff. As the New York Times reported late last year, the companies buy in bulk directly from manufacturers and are able to keep overhead low by not needing employees to check out customers.
During the rally, representatives from the United Bodegas of America, the Bodega and Small Business Association, and the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, spoke of ways to compete with these large corporations, touching on the lack of public support for small businesses.
In March 2020, a new app called My Bodega Online launched, offering free grocery delivery and pickup from local delis. While currently the app is available to residents in the Bronx, the goal is to expand the app to reach more neighborhoods.
The groups also announced support for New York State Assembly bill 1812, legislation to control the growth of monopolies that are driving independently-owned stores out of business.
GoPuff and other delivery services are a product of the pandemic, offering customers a way to get their groceries without contact. Critics say this business practice leaves no room for the small businesses in neighborhoods these companies move into.
Council Member Chris Marte joined officials for the rally, advocating for the small businesses that are part of New York City’s culture.
“Unchecked start-ups like these are currently exploiting the suffering of small businesses during COVID, and capitalizing off of this hard time for our mom and pop shops,” Marte said. “As the son of a bodega owner, I know how these businesses are what hold the fabric of immigrant communities together. VC-backed tech companies should work with the existing innovative and diverse infrastructure that these small businesses have already forged.”
In his statement, Marte also spoke about zoning loopholes corporations utilize to create warehouses. These loopholes take advantage of zoning regulations made during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration which, as the Bowery Boogie described, “favored deregulation of storefront usage under an overly broad idea of ‘mixed-use.'”
“Small business is uniting to protect its interests and ensure that NYC’s robust innovation and diversity continues to provide opportunity for immigrant entrepreneurs,” Frank Garcia, chair of the National Association of State Latino Chambers of Commerce, said.
“We don’t need Wall Street-backed companies displacing the neighborhood stores that give life and community to NYC. We are not going to stand by without fighting fiercely to protect our interests.”
Last month, DoorDash launched its own ultra-fast grocery delivery service called DashMart. The service will first be available in Chelsea, and will later expand to other neighborhoods across the city. DoorDash said it plans to partner with small businesses like bodegas to help them offer fast deliveries. The company said it will also partner with the Yemeni American Merchant Association (YAMA), a small business advocacy organization representing 6,000 Yemeni American-owned bodegas in New York.
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