Two NYC natives set out to save Bodegas with venture backed tech!

Julian Rodriguez
Sep 14, 2017 · 3 min read

Running a brick and mortar small business is hard. I know because my uncle used to spend day after day stocking his own shelves, manning the register and running back and forth to his wholesale supplier with the family mini van just to keep the doors to his Bodega open. This went on for 12 years. Everyday millions of family owned retailers wake up before the crack of dawn and spend hours searching for the household items you have come to love and depend on. Equipped with only hand written notes from the prior day or the eyeballed shelf inventory they memorized from the night before, these store owners rush their goods back to their storefront and welcome you into their businesses with smiles, waves or in some cases endearing hugs.

Bodega cats hard at work!

It’s precisely that last human element that no computerized vending machine can ever replace. The irony in the recent launch of the BODEGA kiosk concept is that the term bodega is understood as the linchpin for urban communities. When one says Bodega it doesn’t just conjure up visions of a florescent storefront with Doritos and toilet paper, instead people immediately see that corner market where Juan, Carlos or Maria can be found giving advice to young people or cooking up a freshly made empanada! You’re reminded of the store owner who might not card you anymore because he knows who you are, and even who your mother is, and how can we forget the cat! A bodega is that place where the closest thing you have to a pet is the bodega cat that keeps the rodents and insects out of not only your store, but your entire building. The bodega is the crux of the urban community, in many cases it is the first meal of the day for kids rushing off to school or day laborers taking a much needed break from a construction site. Bodegas are even a hub for over worked police officers that can always receive their complimentary cup of joe on the house. No suped-up algorithm can ever replace that, and fundamentally we should never seek to build an algorithm that does.

My uncle used to perform his daily rituals at his store, but he doesn’t anymore. Not because his business is one of the many shops that closes down every year, but because he now uses Bazaar! Bazaar has built tech to help bodegas and similar brick and mortar small businesses, instead of building tech that displaces them. Bazaar’s platform gives store owners the ability to order their wholesale goods, understand their business through analytics and receive next day delivery on anything they need to run their businesses. A Bodega equipped with Bazaar software essentially puts the Bodega kiosk out of business! Bazaar has built and implemented AI to inform the Bodega owners of shopping and inventory trends, these insights power far greater decisions and help create more significant impact than what any vending machine could ever do.

Bazaar has the support of the Bodegueros Association of USA as well as support from local and state politicians. We have over 30 active retail groups who buy through our platform every week with no contracts, commitments or hidden charges. We have always focused on bringing transparency to small business owners. Now it’s here.

The changes that urban communities need are not changes that try to shove their communities into a literal box. Tech needs to empower these communities and bring them the tools and services that give them ownership over their own greatness. If you know of a small business owner in NYC tell them to sign up, its free, it will make their lives easier. Plus, we know you would never get your chopped cheese from a vending machine anyway!

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