Saturday, September 04, 2010

Another Bodega Gets a Makeover

The Franklyn Bergen Express Deli at Bergen and Franklin is the latest neighborhood market to undertake a major renovation, following in the footsteps of Nam's Green Market and the Franklin Mini Market. It's a somewhat unsurprising development, though I wonder about a a few things:

1) Bergen and Franklin is a few blocks north of the Franklin Avenue retail boom, which seems concentrated between Eastern Parkway and Park Place. Is this a harbinger of a northward push for retail redevelopment?

2) Laurel had a thoughtful post on Nostrand Park awhile back tackling the bodega gentrification issue, specifically the frustration longtime residents feel when a place goes from dingy to delightful seemingly to please newcomers. At the sneak peak of Gentrifying Brooklyn: The Buying, Selling, and Repackaging of Crown Heights (a film Laurel is co-directing with fellow NP blogger Abeni), a number of landlords made their case for gentrification/revitalization, arguing that by investing in local property, they felt they had earned the right to remake it in any way they saw fit. As for bodega owners, I wonder if they're also building owners. If they're not, perhaps their makeovers are driven less by a new clientèle and more by pressure from landlords to look a certain way. Unlike residents, commercial establishments aren't protected by rent control, and with so many look-alike markets up and down Franklin and Nostrand, I wouldn't be surprised if landlords are starting to lean on their tenants to shape up or ship out.

3. Finally, in that same post, Abeni and Laurel proposed a bodega boycott, of sorts - they make the case that local residents shouldn't patronize the dingy ones with shoddy service, and that by bringing their business to tidy, classy markets, we'll help drive other establishments to clean up their act. This leads me to our ILFA question of the weekend: are you loyal to a specific bodega? If so, why? I've found that the quality of service, much more than the quality of the products or general appearance of the store, keeps me coming back, as well as proximity. When it's done, the Franklyn Bergen Express Deli will be a block from me, but I think I'll still be going to the Dean Grocery Corp, despite its shabby interior, because a) it's so close to my apartment that I routinely go there in whatever I've slept in and b) the guys there know me by name, know what I'm looking for, and don't mind giving me a pack of peanuts for free if I realize I came by without my wallet. But who knows - maybe the new place will be too good to pass up.


  1. Don't simply skip the gross bodega's. Go in, tell them you'd shop there if they improved their store

    If you prefer, buy one of two items to show them you are a real customer, then them how much more you would have spent if they carried items of greater quality.

    ....if you have free time, let 'em know that sweeping the floors and washing the windows might also convey an atmosphere in which you be willing to buy something that wasn't safely packaged in a steel can.