Wendy’s World: Brooklyn’s Bodega Culture

In 2020, we will be sharing weekly soundbites from our Founder, Wendy Pashman, about the adventures, inspirations, and ephemera which are capturing her imagination – and translating into EC concepts. Second up: Brooklyn’s bodega culture.


A truism: the thing about visiting a new place or even a place you haven’t seen for awhile, is that you tend to see with new eyes. Everyday places become treasure troves of wonder and appreciation to the new visitor. In your grown up body you go back to being a kid on an adventure, or an amateur anthropologist. That’s what I love about traveling near and far.

One of my favorite things about NY is those places we call “corner” stores, or “convenience” stores in Chicago and what is called a “bodega” in NY. As an armchair traveller, I loved Patti Smith’s descriptions of keeping alive eating egg sandwiches from her simple local bodega. Fast forward from “back in the day” egg sandwich bodegas to modern day re-conceptualized bodegas that are a perfect foodie ecosystem.

Walking around a few blocks in Brooklyn recently, I discovered a world of bodegas that took my breath away in their perfect business model. Each catered to the demographic of the neighborhood. In fact, I imagined an alien (or even a tourist) visiting, signing up for a “cultural food tour” as a means to uncover anthropological insights about Brooklyn residents through their local bodega inventory.

What would the bodega inventory disclose? First, slogging through the activities of the day makes Brooklynites thirsty. Coffee is the beverage of choice followed closely by juices. Coffee love is multinational and there’s not a bodega that doesn’t open it’s arms to Espresso, Café Bustelo, Chock Full O’Nuts and everything in between. Coffee is front and center. Next, juice bars go beyond the standard and reach into Protein Shakes (Breakfast, Coffee, Energy) and into Smoothies with ingredients to include every manner of fruit plus peanut butter, flax, kale and vanilla.

An anthropologist might remark upon how bodegas cater to a seeming connection between Brooklyn babies, moms, baby carriages and sudden street hunger attacks. The aisles are stroller wide and set up for viewing the stacked pannini, quesadillas and multi bagel varieties.

Moms need salad bars which include everything you’d expect PLUS chickpeas, sunflower seeds, feta, oranges, sweet peas and at least 20 vinaigrettes. We’ve come a long way from Patti Smith’s simple bagel sandwich bodega although the bodega egg sandwich will always be part of the overall mix.

In Brooklyn, the bodegas are a world, a universe, a blessing. They are a metaphor for abundance, convenience, internationalism, and deliciousness. There’s really no need to go anywhere else.