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The Disappearing Bodega/Corner store

August 6, 2008
Lefty, bknesto(middle), "Get it on" Ron '94

Lefty, bknesto(middle), "Get it on" Ron '94


         During the past decade it’s no secret that mom and pop businesses in New York City have been rapidly closing, many due to exorbitant rents that have risen as a result of gentrification. It’s a trend that continues to happen all over the city…from Hells Kitchen to Harlem and beyond.  In this neighborhood, alot of family run independent business have been affected, but one in particular may be going the way of the video rental store…the bodega/corner store/convenience store.

       This is will be another series I’m starting, covering the ones that have left over years and whatever memories I may have about them(presumably most will be brief).  Now let me be the first to say that not ALL of these bodegas closed as a result of gentrification. The thing with a lot of bodegas/corner stores, atleast in my experience is that you tend to go in so much for little things, which in turn breeds a familiarity, which then leads to a genuine rapport. The next thing you know, you’re meeting the wife, kids, brothers cousins etc. because in most cases they are family run operations where everyone pitches in. You walk in, they know your brand of ciggs, how you like your hero sandwich made( lettuce, tomatoes thinly sliced, salt & pepper, a li’l bit of mayo & a li’l bit of mustard lol), and let you know when they are out of your favorite items(usually…ALWAYS blamed on the delivery man lol).

          The first disappearing bodega is T & J mini market, a store close to my heart that was located on the corner of Waverly and Greene avenues, which is now the restaurant Speakeasy. The store was named after the owners Tito and Jose who got the store in about 1980. The previous owner was an old timer from the hood named Billy who also had a numbers spot around the corner. I can remember going to the store for the first time on a sunday morning to get the newpapers for my father and a few items for my mother. With list in hand, walking with my chest out I stepped in the store, grabbed the papers then handed my list to Tito at the counter.  After shouting the items to one of his workers in spanish, Tito packed my bag, while simultaneously checking the list to make sure I had everything. Walking out beaming with pride, I strolled past the older women wearing their sunday crowns on the way to church service. Saying “good morning” to each of them so they would see me, I was thinking to myself…”I’m one of the big kids now!”.

             Eventually Tito moved on to open another bodega, which is located on Dekalb between St.James place and Washington ave., right next door to Luigi’s Pizza. He stills owns it to this day. Unfortunately Jose was murdered in the store in ’91 in what appeared to be a hit. They shot him along with a worker but none of the customers were harmed. I know a few people who were in the store that evening. The store was then run by Jose’s cousin Nelson who partnered with him when Tito moved on, it remained a family operation until it was sold. I know they had their reasons for selling and wish them the best…although I will probably always miss this store. The other night while in speakeasy with my mom having a drink, she got a call. After the person on the phone asked what she was doing, she replied “I’m in the store having a drink with my son” lol. Above is a picture of me with some friends in front of the store in ’94…Peep the price for a gallon of milk!!


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