Elsewhere in the world they may be known as corner stores, delis and groceries but in New York, these sell-everything party stores are famously (and fondly) referred to as bodegas. They are a vital institution of the city, stretching all five boroughs and selling New York’s roughly 8.3 million residents everything they need from milk to magazines. Their heritage may vary between neighborhoods- Italian, Spanish, Polish and Korean- but the product offering remains more or less the same. Shelves lined with rows of dusty cracker boxes, canned soups with thirty days until expiration, half-ripened produce and a refrigerated section of Good Humor ice creams and single-serve beer cans of an assorted variety are all familiar staples. No matter if your vice is alcohol, gambling, nicotine or sugar, bodegas have a fix for every kind of fiend. You may go for garbage bags but you’ll leave with a few scratch-offs, a new lighter and a bag of chips too.
Even more than the wide selection of goods and local delivery service offering for a nominal fee, it is their 24-hour operation that makes bodegas most convenient. This is also the reason why store owners and register clerks end up getting to know their neighborhood residents on a personal level- because it is those purchases made in the harsh, early hours of the morning that can be most revealing of one’s identity. Most New Yorkers aren’t embarrassed by this phenomenon though, instead they come to trust these people, know them by name, and look forward to seeing them… even if only to talk about the score of the Knicks game last night and find out if anyone hit the Powerball jackpot. Put simply, bodega employees develop into the most comforting kind of friends who remember the way you like your turkey sandwich, have no problem letting you owe them a few dollars from time-to-time and are happy to serve you.