The idea of shopping has changed a lot with the advent of the internet – the idea of finding a cool store nobody knows about is a bit different when most items can be found on some megashopping site with a few keywords. What if you could find a place nobody knew about, though – perhaps hidden away behind a secret door in an otherwise unassuming shop? That, in a nutshell, is the idea of Bodega.
After entering a purposefully nondescript corner store without so much as a name over the door and windows lined with rows of sun-bleached, generic products, you’ll find yourself in what looks like an almost normal neighborhood convenience store. There’s a little spot near the window lined with art books, some records by the register, and a cooler filled with socks, stuffed animals, candles, and a bong, but other than that you might think that’s all there is to see until you realize that the Snapple machine slides off to the side revealing a boutique with high-end sneakers and clothing.
It’s a fun and clever concept, although the Snapple door was open when we went because of foot traffic so I didn’t get the opportunity to surprise my wife by sliding it to the side like a cool person in the know. After over a decade in operation the secret is pretty well-known (although they still asked that I not take any photos of the machine itself that serves as a door) and despite eschewing a website store presence for their first four years, now you can hop online and buy Bodega’s goods just like you would anywhere else. Founders Oliver Mak, Jay Gordon, and Dan Natola originally had promotions like having a series of dots and dashes in the perforations on a pair of sneakers that were morse code for a phone number which, when called, played audio backwards, and when that was decoded you’d find the location for a rare pair of shoes. The idea was that the hunt for something rare and unique was part of what made the act of discovery special.
The clothes in Bodega are pricey but chic, and while I’m not really cool enough (or wealthy enough) to pull them off, it was fun to visit a place that is doing something different and inspired. So many places are vying for your attention now, doing their best to attract your business by shoving their way in front of you. Bodega has become a success by doing the opposite – trusting that through word of mouth and an engaging premise, people will do the work to find them.
Matthew Christopher MA Boston Jan 24, 2023 Off The Path Places to Visit Retail Stores