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Centro in the News: New York City Bodegas And The Generations Who Love Them

Bodega

In New York City, there's a place on almost every block where you can buy a bag of chips or a lottery ticket. Elsewhere, it's called a corner store. But in the Big Apple, it's known as a bodega.

In Spanish, bodega can mean "storeroom" or "wine cellar."

New Yorkers like Miriam Gomez, though, know bodegas as neighborhood institutions you can count on at just about any hour of the day or night.

"Where supermarkets are closed, the bodegas are open," she says after making a purchase at Stop One Gourmet Deli on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Still, bodegas are part of a shrinking breed of business in New York, where rising rent and chain stores are putting pressure on mom-and-pop shops.

"A lot of them are closing. A lot of people are just giving up. You know, it's not fair," says Josefine Rodriguez, who manages Stop One Gourmet Deli.

Rodriguez came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when she was three months old. She says she's been shopping at bodegas all her life for cuts of meat and fresh fruit that connect her with her roots.

That bodega culture took shape in the 1940s and '50s, when Carlos Sanabria's family would make almost daily runs down the street for milk, eggs, beans and rice.

Many different ethnic groups have taken on the business model. But Sanabria, author of The Bodega: A Cornerstone of Puerto Rican Barrios, says the New York bodega is still closely associated with that first generation of entrepreneurs from Puerto Rico. They are among the hundreds of thousands who left the Caribbean for the island of Manhattan and other parts of New York City after World War II.

Read more at NPR