Bodega (store)

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A man walks into a corner bodega late at night
A bodega/coffee shop in Midtown Manhattan

A bodega is a small owner-operated convenience store serving hot and prepared food, often open late hours and typically with ethnic market influences.[1][2][3] Most famously located on New York's street corners as an introduction by Puerto Ricans in New York City, they are renowned for their convivial culture and colorful character.[4] There are an estimated 13,000 bodegas across the city.[5]


In Spanish, bodega is a term for "storeroom" or "wine cellar", or "warehouse", with a similar origin to boutique or apothecary; the precise meaning varies regionally in the Spanish language, and the later New York City term evolved from Puerto Rican and Cuban usage for a small grocery. (In contemporary Cuba, the term now usually connotes a government ration store.)

In English, the first appearance of the bodega in print dates to a travelogue of Spain from 1846, describing wine cellars.[1][6] In New York City, The Sun reported the first bodega opening in 1902, which was described as a Spanish barroom,[7] more like a cantina. The more specific meaning of a type of New York City Puerto Rican convenience store only came about in the mid-20th century, with the first print appearance in Time in 1956;[8] though the term has also been applied retrospectively to such establishments as far back as the 1920s/30s.

In a New York City context, the "bodega" is similar to, and may overlap with, delicatessen, newsstand, corner store, corner grocery store, and candy store.[2][9][10]

Culture and economy[edit]

Bodegas were popularized in the mid-twentieth century by Puerto Ricans.[3][11][12] Some stores were named after places in Puerto Rico.[13] Although they were initially documented in the 1930s (a 50th anniversary was marked on Spanish-language radio station WADO in 1986), the first bodega may have opened even earlier.[14] Early examples were establishments serving factory workers in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and La Marqueta in East Harlem, where stalls serving Puerto Rican staples (at first included among goods sold by local Jewish merchants) became increasingly Puerto Rican-owned in the 1920s/30s.[15] Other Latino groups in the city have also embraced the bodega, serving a wider variety of Latin American cuisine.[16] Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños at CUNY Hunter College owns a collection of historical bodega photography.[17] Despite their Hispanic origins, by the late 2010s approximately half of all bodegas were operated by Yemeni American immigrants.[18] Yemeni business owners led a campaign of bodega closures in February 2017 in protest of the Trump travel ban.

Many bodegas keep late hours or even 24/7 service, contributing to New York City's reputation as The City That Never Sleeps.

Bodegas in popular culture[edit]

One famous bodega, Gem Spa, was a gathering place for beat poets in New York's Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Gem Spa is also thought by some to be the birthplace of the egg cream.[19][20][21][22][23][24]

In the 1998 stoner comedy Half Baked, Thurgood, played by Dave Chappelle, refers to purchasing cannabis at bodegas: “You can get the stuff at little corner stores called bodegas. Say it with me - BO-DE-GAS. Yes, very good! These places always have incredibly old products, but the weed ain't bad.”[25]

In 2018, Camden, N.J. rapper Mir Fontane [es] released an EP titled Macaroni Tony featuring a track titled "Bodega" that emphasizes the central role bodegas play in urban communities.[26] When asked about bodega's, Mir Fontane explained: "To me, the bodega always represented a hub for the community… but it also embodies the spirit of the hustle and grind. The owner of the bodega is one of the first true businessmen you meet growing up in the hood."[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Farfan, Isa (2022-07-19). "The NYC Bodega: A History of Violence and Resilience". Untapped New York. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  2. ^ a b "Ask A Native New Yorker: What's The Difference Between A Bodega, A Deli & Corner Grocer?". Gothamist. 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  3. ^ a b "New York City Bodegas And The Generations Who Love Them". NPR. March 10, 2017. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  4. ^ Randle, Aaron (22 February 2020). "Inside the New York City Bodegas Going Viral on TikTok". New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  5. ^ "New York readies to say goodbye to a staple of city life: plastic shopping bags". New York Daily News. 23 February 2020. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  6. ^ "bodega". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. December 2019. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  7. ^ "The Sun 10 Dec 1902, page Page 8". Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  8. ^ "It's time to kvell about some awesomesauce new words: the OED January 2020 update". Oxford English Dictionary. 2020-01-08. Retrieved 2022-09-18.
  9. ^ Zukin, Sharon (2014). "Restaurants as "Post Racial" Spaces. "Soul Food" and Symbolic Eviction in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn)". Ethnologie française. 44 (1): 135–147. doi:10.3917/ethn.141.0135. ISSN 0046-2616. JSTOR 42772447.
  10. ^ Gray, Madison (2012-05-25). "The Bodega: A Brief History of an Urban Institution". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  11. ^ Carter, Stephen L. (15 April 2022). "Don't Call It a Convenience Store: The New York Bodega Is So Much More". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 19 April 2022. (subscription required)
  12. ^ Sanabria, Carlos (2016). The bodega: a cornerstone of Puerto Rican barrios (the Justo Marti collection). New York: Centro Press. OCLC 982960226.
  13. ^ "The Legacy of the Puerto Rican Bodega | Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños". Retrieved 5 August 2022. 'Bodegas provided a link to Puerto Rico,' (Sanabria) writes, citing everything from the products they carried to the towns in Puerto Rico from which they derived their names.
  14. ^ Howe, Marvine (19 November 1986). "Bodegas find prosperity amid change". New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  15. ^ Korrol, Virginia Sánchez (1994-11-18). From Colonia to Community: The History of Puerto Ricans in New York City. University of California Press. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-0-520-07900-7.
  16. ^ Ricourt, Milagros; Danta, Ruby (2018-08-06). Hispanas de Queens: Latino Panethnicity in a New York City Neighborhood. Cornell University Press. pp. 46–50. ISBN 978-1-5017-2465-7.
  17. ^ "The Legacy of the Puerto Rican Bodega | Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños". Retrieved 2022-09-05.
  18. ^ Goldbaum, Christina (April 29, 2019). "Behind the Counter, a New Political Force Takes On The New York Post and Trump". New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2021. Of the roughly 10,000 bodegas in the city, YAMA estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 are owned by Yemeni-Americans.
  19. ^ Paradise, Ben Nigh, Lisa. "An iconic bodega in the East Village is at risk of shuttering — here's why they hope a traditional NYC drink will help them survive". Business Insider. Retrieved 2022-09-16.
  20. ^ "Gem Spa, East Village Store Famous for Egg Creams, Shuts Down for Good". Retrieved 2022-09-17.
  21. ^ Conti, Allie (2019-08-29). "Can Instagram and Egg Creams Save the Last Punk Rock Bodega?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-09-17.
  22. ^ Vadukul, Alex (2021-08-18). "What Happened to Gem Spa's Zoltar Fortunetelling Machine?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-09-17.
  23. ^ Orlow, Emma. "New York institution Gem Spa is permanently closing". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2022-09-17.
  24. ^ Swanson, David (2020-05-11). "Gem Spa closes: Bye Bye, Miss American Egg Cream". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2022-09-17.
  25. ^ "Half Baked Blu-ray Review | High Def Digest". Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  26. ^ a b "Mir Fontane Pays Homage to Lesandro 'Junior' Guzman Feliz in "Bodega" Video". HYPEBEAST. 2018-09-10. Retrieved 2022-09-16.