Remember when those two dudes, Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan, who used to work at Google thought they were going to make bodegas and mom-and-pop shops obsolete with a glorified ass vending machine called “BODEGA?” They even had the nerve to use a cat as the company’s logo to represent the heart of all bodegas, the bodega cat. We all know bodegas to be the most convenient place in the neighborhood for us to buy food, drinks, snacks, household items and anything we may need. Bodegas have been a New York City staple since the influx of immigrants from Latin America to the United States. For people in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, bodegas hold the same significance with bodega translating to grocery store in Spanish. There are also the Arab-owned delis that are prevalent here in NYC. This “Bodega” startup was met with huge backlash and many took offense to these two tech capitalists trying to rid us of these cultural staples that we adore while adopting the name simultaneously.
In an interview with Fast Company in 2017, McDonald had this to say:
I asked McDonald point-blank about whether he’s worried that the name Bodega might come off as culturally insensitive. Not really. “I’m not particularly concerned about it,” he says. “We did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97% said ‘no’. It’s a simple name and I think it works.
Exactly who did you survey because it damn sure wasn’t who owns these stores I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t appreciate being put out of business by some tech capitalists that used to work for Google, who think putting 100 things in a vending machine is equivalent to the work they put in 7 days a week. After all that backlash, McDonald and Rajan got the message clearly and relaunched their little vending machine startup as “Stockwell” and it has none of the Latin American hood flair that our bodegas have. How McDonald and Rajan even mustered the courage to do this foolishness is goes without explanation.
There’s no way you can replace that feeling of just walking out your crib for a quick run to a bodega. It’s accessibility is what helped them remain relevant. Whether you want a beef patty, chopped cheese or a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll with an Arizona to go with it, you’ll usually always be satisfied. Depending how long you lived in a neighborhood or whether you grew up there, you’ve built relationships with the people who run these stores.