Improving the Neighborhood by Shopping at Corner Stores

Neighbors Project is an organization dedicated to improving urban neighborhoods by teaching people how to be better neighbors. They throw block parties, publish how-to guides, and sponsor special social experiments like the Food & Liquor Project, which encourages people to shop exclusively more often at corner stores (known as “food and liquors” in Chicago, apparently). They say shopping hyperlocally like this means you aren’t driving your car to the suburbs, you’re supporting neighborhood businesses instead of chains, and you’re more likely to run into your neighbors or befriend new ones.

To promote this agenda, the group has just produced the Bodega Party in a Box, a helpful kit containing much of what one needs to throw a first-class party using only items found at corner stores (known as “bodegas” in New York, apparently). Inside is a cookbook, party invitations, decorations, and custom-printed reusable shopping bags. Proceeds from the sale of the bags go toward furthering this and other initiatives.

In any case, the basic principles at play here seem solid. Do things in the neighborhood, get to know your neighbors.

Previously on Mission Mission:

Cellphone Ban in Mission Corner Stores?

Chillaxin’ at the Nice Lady Store

9 Responses to “Improving the Neighborhood by Shopping at Corner Stores”

  1. Yell says:

    It seems like Americans want to bag/package/make a kit out of everything.

  2. Allan Hough says:

    Yeah but like I said, nothing wrong with the basic principles, right?

  3. spiralladders says:

    The stores have to be supplied though, and they’re usually supplied by trucks, vans, etc. What if it less efficient (more carbon emitting) to make many deliveries to small stores instead of fewer deliveries to bigger stores? At least, it’s an open question. I think there was an article along these lines in the new yorker.
    Also, aren’t corner stores sometimes more expensive or have worse selection of say fruit and vegetables? Even the liquor selection isn’t always that great.

  4. Allan Hough says:

    Solid point on the trucks and vans having to navigate through slow-moving city streets hitting stoplight after stoplight (and shit what if they hit a cyclist!), but as far as selection, I think the idea is, the more customers go in and ask for good stuff to be stocked, the better the selection will get. Demand it, they’ll supply it.

  5. Iain says:

    @ Spiralladders and Allan

    If you assume that you must drive to the big box store, then you’ve got it backwards on the truck issue. Large markets and big box stores create far more vehicle miles and carbon emissions because people drive to them instead of walking to their local store. It’s more efficient for the truck to make 1 delivery to Safeway than 10 bodega deliveries, but less efficient for everyone else. Plus, again, shopping in the hood keeps money in the hood.

    But selection is definitely key, and is a more serious issue than the number of varieties of Johnny Walker available behind the counter. In neighborhoods without access to fresh produce, reliance on the corner market is more of a scourge than anything. Luckily in the Mission we have great produce markets all over the place, with excellently low prices.

  6. kithodge says:

    @Iain Selection is definitely key, as you say. And as Allan points out, the more you ask for fresh produce, and vote with your dollars, the more likely stores are to carry it, which helps everyone in the neighborhood who shops there. The Food & Liquor project in Uptown, Chicago found a lot of stores that had tried to carry produce, but lost money cause it rotted on the shelf; no one bought it. We went ahead and created a how-to guide to getting more fresh produce in your store; it’s on the site.

    And just to clear, we’re actually not asking people to shop exclusively at their corner stores. Simply to give it a shot more often than you may already be, or to try it for the first time if you’ve never been in at all. Beyond the environmental impact, it’s a way to help the locally-owned stores in the neighborhood stay in business when they’re being pressured to get fancy or be replaced in the Mission. There’s no reason that Bi-Rite should have a lock on the super nice produce in the neighborhood (and wouldn’t it be nice if it weren’t always so incredibly crowded?). The Mission has an amazing corner store/bodega culture already, so you’re lucky to have a head start compared to many neighborhoods.

    Kit Hodge, CEO, Neighbors Project

  7. Katie Ann says:

    If only the beer was colder

  8. spiralladders says:

    @Iain I agree with you — everyone driving to big box stores is probably worse. But, sometimes I wonder how efficient it is to have so many corner stores (sometimes across the street from each other), although it is convenient.

    I think corner stores that don’t stock fruits now should start by stocking something unique. For example, the farmers at alemany market usually have some fruits or vegetables that the average store doesn’t carry. A corner store could “specialize” by stocking one of those. Then there could a “jujube” corner store or some other kind of fruit.

  9. Allan Hough says:

    Wow, spiralladders, that’s genius. You should start a campaign. In earnest. I’ll volunteer to help.

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