Ex-Google Employees Threaten Mom-And-Pop Bodegas With New Startup

"Bodega" Silicon Valley's Newest Idea Is Economic Assault on People of Color

Bodegas and corner stores are intrinsically tied to immigrant communities, starting with the wave of Puerto Rican immigrants throughout the 1940s to the 1970s. It envisions a future where instead of going to your local convenience store for affordable non-perishables, cigarettes, and toiletries, you will want to unlock a five-foot-wide pantry box with an app and hope it is equipped with the non-perishable item you need and can afford. Cameras in the vending machine will monitor what you pick up from the pantry box and the app will then be charged for the goods taken, thus preventing the issue of someone using the app to open the box and take whatever they want without paying for it. It's nearly as if the co-founders (ex-Google employees, for what it's worth) have never lived in a city where bodega as a crucial neighborhood resource.

According to Fast Company, Paul McDonald, a former Google product manager, is launching Bodega, with the help of another former Google employee, Ashwath Rajan. "It's disrespecting all the mom-and-pop bodega owners that started these businesses in the '60s and '70s", said Frank Garcia, the chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

"We are against it", he told Metro. "Bodega" is a Spanish term that roughly translates to cellar, storehouse, or warehouse, but it has come into modern parlance to refer to corner stores usually owned or run by immigrants in large American cities. Aside from inquiring about the name, Fast Company didn't pose a question about running mom-and-pop stores and bodegas out of business to the Bodega founders-maybe because it's already too late. They're going out of business, Garcia said, because of costs including rent, licenses, insurance and fines and the juggling of business mandates, inspections and so on. When asked if the use of that term might be offensive to some, McDonald, the startup's CEO, said he wasn't anxious about it.

Now, we can add bodegas to that list; Fast Company reports that a start-up calling itself Bodega has set out to replicate the convenience of corner stores, but without, well, the stores themselves.

Also, the company is called "Bodega", which is really just asking for it. They're cultural institutions, Garcia said, and he promised that he will work to ensure that the Bodega boxes do not come into NY. "I'm not particularly concerned about it", he said.

New Yorkers and others who frequent bodegas seem to have Garcia's back. McDonald says they already have 50 locations set up on the West Coast, with plans to go national soon. Many took to Twitter to air their grievances about the Bodega box concept and show their support for their local bodega.

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