Today we announced Bodega, and while we were hoping for a big response, the reaction that we got this morning certainly wasn’t what we expected. A FastCompany story about us broke early this morning that brought up several points we wanted to address head on.
We believe, as this Quartz article states, that “[t]he future of retail is tiny stores everywhere that sell exactly what you need.” Corner stores in places like NYC are a model for this — they’re on nearly every block and serve their local neighborhoods 24/7. We’re trying to use technology to bring some of that same ease and convenience to everyone by putting tiny stores right where people live and work.
So, to get to the issues:
Are we trying to put corner stores out of business?
Definitely not. Challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal.
Corner stores have been fixtures of their neighborhoods for generations. They stock thousands of items, far more than we could ever fit on a few shelves. Their owners know what products to carry and in many cases who buys what. And they’re run by people who in addition to selling everything from toilet paper to milk also offer an integral human connection to their patrons that our automated storefronts never will.
We want to bring commerce to places where commerce currently doesn’t exist. Rather than take away jobs, we hope Bodega will help create them. We see a future where anyone can own and operate a Bodega — delivering relevant items and a great retail experience to places no corner store would ever open.
Is this just for Kind Bars and coconut water?
No, our cabinets are 8 square feet of retail shelf space that can sell anything — not just the snacks of the stereotypical Whole Foods set. Each Bodega is designed to house everyday essentials tailored to its location. For offices, that might be snacks and office supplies. On a college campus, it could be electronics, school supplies, and personal care items. In a gym, it’s supplements and workout gear. While we’ve seen that there are some key items by location, the products and brands in every location will eventually vary considerably.
What’s with our name?
In Spanish, “bodega” can mean grocery store, wine cellar, or pantry. In many major cities, it’s come to mean the mostly independently-run corner stores that populate the city and serve the community. Like NYC’s bodegas, we want to build a shopping experience that stands for convenience and ubiquity for people who don’t have easy access to a corner store.
Is it possible we didn’t fully understand what the reaction to the name would be?
Yes, clearly. The name Bodega sparked a wave of criticism on social media far beyond what we ever imagined. When we first came up with the idea to call the company Bodega we recognized that there was a risk of it being interpreted as misappropriation. We did some homework — speaking to New Yorkers, branding people, and even running some survey work asking about the name and any potential offense it might cause. But it’s clear that we may not have been asking the right questions of the right people.
Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas, we clearly hit a nerve this morning, we apologize. Rather than disrespect to traditional corner stores — or worse yet, a threat — we intended only admiration. We commit to reviewing the feedback and understanding the reactions from today. Our goal is to build a longterm, durable, thoughtful business and we want to make sure our name — among other decisions we make — reflects those values. We’re here to learn and improve and hopefully bring a useful, new retail experience to places where commerce currently doesn’t exist.
Originally published at blog.bodega.ai on September 13, 2017.