By SAKI KNAFO, The New York Times
Published: March 27, 2009
Published: March 27, 2009
The New York Times
EARLIER this year, a restaurateur in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, named Cody Utzman posted a comment on his blog in which he described his newest neighborhood venture, a store specializing in organic foods, as a small grocery, a general store and a market.
By the time an article about the project appeared in The Brooklyn Paper about two months later, he and his marketing team had settled on a new synonym, one well suited to these populist times; the store, Mr. Utzman is now fond of saying, is a bodega.
In the imagination, bodegas are associated with many things: red-and-yellow metal signs, packets of pork rinds, cartons of plantains and yucca.
At Mr. Utzman’s store, the Brooklyn Standard, which is set to open on Wednesday on Nassau Avenue, customers will be able to choose from a small selection of typical bodega items, like batteries and cigarettes. But the focus will be on much trendier fare, like organic egg sandwiches and jars of kombucha, a health drink made from an Asian fungus.
The connection to the classic bodegas of Puerto Rican and Dominican New York may seem tenuous. Yet, to quote Kate Zidar, a Brooklyn Standard consultant whose duties include overseeing a worm-filled compost bin in the backyard, the word “bodega” has “superseded its origins.”
As Ms. Zidar suggested, bodega has come to mean any New York convenience store or deli. It has also acquired an aura of hipness. An online hip-hop magazine is called Brooklyn Bodega, and a rock club housed in a former bodega in Bushwick, Brooklyn, is called, simply, Bodega.
Andy Smith, 26, a part owner of the club, said that he and his partner “batted around a bunch of ideas as to what we were going to call it, but at the end of the day, we were just like, ‘It’s an old bodega; let’s keep it like that.’ ”
When they bought the space in April, it was an empty shell. But soon after, Mr. Smith and an artist at the School of Visual Arts constructed a sculpture of a bodega counter, complete with hallmark plexiglass cubbyholes.
Mr. Utzman concedes that invoking the word bodega in the store’s publicity materials (“The New Bodega”) was a marketing ploy. But it wasn’t just that, he insists. Even though he’ll be selling organic products, he says he’s determined to keep prices in the bodega range.
He listed a variety of cost-saving measures, like dumping food waste in a compost bin and then reselling it as fertilizer. Holding up a biodegradable drink container, he said he hoped that bodegas around the city would eventually adopt the same approach.
They just might. Ramon Murphy, a bodega owner and the president of the Bodega Association of the United States, said his group was developing a new model for bodegas, for which he hoped to receive city funding. He is calling it the green bodega.
“You’re going to have more vegetables, more organic products,” Mr. Murphy said. “The way the world changed and the community changed, that’s the way we want to do.”
A version of this article appeared in print on March 29, 2009, on page CY6 of the New York edition.