New York’s bodegas are a quintessential part of city life as much as taking the subway or strolling through Central Park. When Governor Cuomo mandated last week that non-essential workers stay home, the nearly 16,000 bodegas across the five boroughs joined hospitals, grocery stores, laundromats and utility companies, among a few others, as the only businesses allowed to stay open.
Now there’s an app you can use to order that breakfast sandwich or a six-pack of beer just steps from your apartment through My Bodega Online. The app, which is free for users on iPhones and Android phones, is a boon for New Yorkers, says the founder and CEO José Bello, because these corner stores also serve as coffee shops, a newspaper stand (and neighborhood gossip central) and as an everyday convenience dotting nearly every neighborhood.
“When you go to the supermarket, maybe you know one cashier or the manager,” says Bello in an interview with Time Out New York. “At a bodega, you get to know everyone. There’s the guy that comes in at 6 o’clock in the morning for a bagel and coffee. You get to know the cat. We’re a relationship app more than a transaction app.”
Bello had planned to launch his app—which was developed in collaboration with the Bodega and Small Business Association of New York—over the summer but given the city’s stay-at-home orders, he and his partners decided to provide the service last week to help bodegas generate business. There are currently about a dozen bodegas featured on the app, and Bello is aiming to have 1,000 or so within the next six weeks.
While services like UberEats or Seamless charge high commissions for their clients, My Bodega Online is not currently charging bodegas to use its app for the time being. Bello says that once the coronavirus pandemic passes, bodega owners will be charged 50 cents per transaction; he notes that the fee is low because the bodegas provide their own deliverers and inventory (they can also take cash payments). Restaurants and bars have also pivoted to takeout and delivery in the past week.
“When we were raising money and looking for investors, there were people who thought a bodega was like a 7-Eleven,” says Bello. “It’s not a convenience store. If you’re from New York, you know it’s much more.”