New York City’s quaint corner stores, known as bodegas, never could compete with chain stores like CVS, but during the recession things got bloody. Bodegas closed by the hundreds. In 2010 on a 33-block stretch of Broadway alone there were 137 store closures.This past summer may have been the worst yet.
Eden Farm in the East Village has been owned by a Korean family since the eighties. They don’t expect to make it through the year: “We started this year to lose money. June, July and August were very bad, the worst summer ever.”
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For Eden Farm to make a profit, the store has to do around $5,000 in sales over 24 hours. This year they are averaging $3,000.
“Back in the day people didn’t care so much about price. Now people go the extra mile to go to CVS,” a worker told us.
Bodega owners want to keep their prices low. It’s a mainstay of the business, which caters to the struggling population as well as the affluent. But there’s only so much a small business owner can do until they have to raise prices, go out of of business, or both.
“The only way to stay open is to cut personnel, raise prices, and to work double shifts. I work here 16 hours a day,” said Delgar Bueno of Brooklyn. “The landlords and Con Edison, they are big fish. I’m just a tiny fish, so I need to work around what they give me.”
The changing population of many outer borough neighborhoods also gives an ultimatum to the bodegas: adapt or else. Those that can offer the variety of Manhattan markets thrive; those who don’t end up shuttered.
“I want to offer the best prices for all my customers, but the local people can’t afford the prices that the newcomers can,” said Delgar. “But my rent has gone up from $2500 a month to $6000 a month in the last three years. How else can I keep up?”
The answer is: he probably can’t. “In five years, I will be closed. Less than five.”
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