As humans we’re programmed to create, its always been that way and will always be until the proverbial rapture rears its ugly head. Now more than ever we’re challenged to create bigger and better versions of everything, often times attempting to replace stuff that doesn’t need to be. Lost amongst all of the resources at our disposal is the human connection.
Growing up, the corner store, liquor store, or affectionately known as the bodega on the east coast, had this aspirational element to it (and it wasn’t for the booze). It wasn’t so much able being able to buy something, but more so represented a pastime of saying hello to the same cashier everytime, striking up meaningless conversation, and feeling empowered to buy your own stuff, with your own money. The corner store may almost be a right of passage for a youth as the first place to make purchases and feel like a boss.
However, a company that claims to “bring commerce to places where commerce currently doesn’t exist” has created a mobile “bodega”. The way it works is by tracking who’s purchasing cabinet items through camera technology and marks what’s been purchased so it can be replenished. Its an upscale vending machine of sorts, stocked with a who’s who of processed snacks and beverages.
Aside from a nostalgic value, these small establishments often times provide income to impoverished communities and are relied upon as a neighborhood pit stop that builds a sense of camaraderie, which amongst the climate of gentrification and technology takeover, makes for a bleak looking future and loss of culture.
In 2017, we were introduced to another startup from Silicon Valley, which uses a misappropriation of the term Bodega as its namesake, and looks to eliminate these mom and pop businesses with trendy marketing and technology to make people’s lives easier. Backed with a nice chunk of capital, the venture was found to have 14 of its cabinet sites available. Initially claiming to have 30 of its pantries in rotation throughout the Bay Area, the company spoke too soon as it was only in preliminary talks. The company also initially claimed to have an estimated 1,000 by the end of 2018. The ultimate goal was to roll them out nationwide.
We’ve seen this before, a box single-handely taking down an industry. Remember Red Box? Granted, I personally don’t see this happening with Bodega, but it makes me ponder how much more effective something like this would be if the driving force wasn’t monetary, but had a more humanitarian effort behind it. It’s also a reminding factor that if you’re a startup that releases 1,000 twitter posts, try not to mislead the public into implying your replacing the corner store and it’s nice owner who remembers you by name.
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