If you've been to, or lived in, New York City you are likely familiar with the city's ubiquitous bodegas. They are generally characterized by an ample selection of pork rinds, blaring salsa music and round-the-clock hours. The bodega has never been a bastion for greenness, but a pop-up shop called Boho Bodega wants to change that.
Running in conjunction with the CMJ Music Festival from October 20-25th, the Boho Bodega has had and will have free events and parties to promote and showcase the shop's organic and fair trade vendors like Organic India Tea and Green Forest paper products. All of the proceeds of goods sold will go to the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC), who runs the city's farmers markets among other things. According to a press release by MakeMakes, the firm that conceived the project, the point of the shop isn't to turn a profit, but to "instill a new reality by placing green foods, beverages and products in the universal everyday format of the urban corner store, deconstructing the common misconception that green is only available to the white collar hippie."I made it to their boisterous opening a few days ago in its posh Nolita neighborhood location. The opener was replete with operatic performances, roving transvestites, and a hip, beautiful crowd sipping Vita Coco coconut water infused cocktails. The interior was a bit funky with cardboard ceilings and tomato can lamps (the real bodegas generally have naked and flickering fluorescents).
While I had a good time, I did wonder for whom the shop was meant to appeal. Might neighborhoods where the exposure to organic and fair trade products be better introduced to a less affluent community, particularly if the purpose of the store is to highlight that these things needn't be relegated to niche, affluent buyers?
Organizer Mia Sakai said they were aware of these contradictions and would have loved to set up shop in a traditional bodega-filled neighborhood like Washington Heights, but explained that it was a ultimately a pop-up marketing event. The limited run necessitated a high volume location, which made the Nolita location ideal.
Therein lies the struggle for green-marketers: do they choose to strengthen existing markets (ones that are typically more affluent and educated about their consumer choices) or do they dare to venture into segments that don't know the difference between pasture fed and free range and why they should spend accordingly?
Ultimately, the Boho Bodega is a thought (and marketing) experiment. It creates one vision of how any institution, even ones that seem intractably un-green and un-nutritious, can be executed responsibly. If nothing else, they throw a good party, so drop by.
Photos via MakeMakes