Saving Small Businesses In New York: What Are The Solutions?

by MR Magazine Staff

In September, an article about a Silicon Valley startup called Bodega incited outrage in the world of social media. The concept was that this company would put little automated stores, resembling glass-fronted IKEA bookshelves, in apartment buildings to eliminate stressful trips to the grocery store. “The vision here is much bigger than the box itself,” Bodega co-founder Paul McDonald, formerly of Google, boasted to a Fast Company reporter. “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’s pitch is pretty much what tech startup guys have been saying since day one: We are going to replace every aspect of your daily routine with a widget. The corner store has been on Silicon Valley’s hit list since the mid-1990s, although the seemingly unstoppable proliferation of chain drug stores with increasingly well-stocked food aisles has probably done more damage to mom-and-pops than any app. Nonetheless, the idea of a company named Bodega replacing brick-and-mortar corner stores was just too smarmily Orwellian. The boxes themselves looked like an act of vandalism waiting to happen. And so the hate-Tweeting began. But there was also something eerie about the timing. This moment is an unusually fraught one in the retail industry. It now appears that even the relentless waves of CVS and Walgreens/Duane Reade stores might finally be contained by the seductive power of Amazon. 2017 is also the year that big name merchants like Toys ‘R’ Us and Radio Shack have filed for bankruptcy, and historic purveyors of the ordinary, like J.C. Penney and Sears, have shuttered hundreds of stores. Much of the slaughter is taking place out of sight in suburban malls, but the vacancy rates in the most desirable New York neighborhoods usually crowded with designer showplaces are also way up. Read more at Curbed NY.