Startup's plan to replace bodegas meets backlash on social media

Getty images

Getty images

And if you live in NY, you not only have a favorite bodega, you probably have a favorite bodega cat.

Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. Unlike classic bodegas and mom-and-pop corner stores, these machine box things will not make you an egg and cheese on a roll, and they will certainly not recognize you and talk with you about whatever the hell you talk about at 2 a.m. on a weekday when you've wandered in cuz you can't sleep and now you're hungry. The co-founders have appropriated the stereotypical markers of a New York City bodega, from the name itself to its logo, a cat head meant to evoke those shops' feline overlords.

The pantry can only be unlocked by an app, and upon choosing an item, cameras powered with computer vision will register what you've selected and automatically charge your credit card.

Nah, it doesn't work because you've made a glorified vending machine and are naming it Bodega.

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"Eventually, centralized shopping locations won't be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you", McDonald told Fast Company.

"To me, it is offensive for people who are not Hispanic to use the name 'bodega, ' to make a quick buck, '"Garcia says".

But Frank Garcia, the chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, disagrees.

Garcia's grandfather was a bodega owner and the president of the first Latin Grocery Association, now called the Bodega Association of NY.

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But mostly, to Garcia, it's a culture issue. "My grandfather must be rolling over in his grave right now". By the end of next year, McDonald "hopes to have more than a thousand", Fast Company reported.

Silicon Valley seems to be obsessed with "disrupting" services that already exist-and, for decades, have worked just fine-in New York City, whether it's laundromats or dollar vans or even dog-walkers.

As for the name of the start up, when asked by Fast Company if he believed the name came off as culturally insensitive, McDonald said he is "not particularly concerned about it".

"I feel that this is going to be a David and Goliath [situation], and we're going to fight it", he said.

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According to the Fast Company article, the company unveiled 50 locations on the West Coast Wednesday and has plans to go national. None are in NY yet, but the founders said they plan to go national soon. And, together with other marginalized people who run bodegas, they're pushing back against this latest tech "enbroachment". 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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