As the inventors of Bodega learned yesterday, real corner shops actually matter to cities in a way supermarket chains and automated cabinets nev

The owner of a bodega, a small convenience and liquor store, in California.
The owner of a bodega, a small convenience and liquor store, in California. © Mardis Coers#102006/flickr


Yesterday a couple of young entrepreneurs launched a new business called Bodega: small, automated cabinets that sell a variety of goods in public places, and which can track items sold and send orders for restocking. The Twitter backlash was immediate, particularly due to the name, which many considered offensive as it appeared to appropriate a type of establishment that had thrived under Spanish-speaking immigrants, like my grandparents, while apparently contriving to put those very establishments out of business. 

One Oakland resident, Kathryn Walters, put it succinctly: 

“[In NYC], if I had a day where I really didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone I still made time to go to my corner bodega cause those dudes were *rad* and their cat was cute as fuck. Highly doubt you’d get a cute ass cat stuffed in a cabinet to simulate that authentic bodega experience. I predict/hope for failure.”

The reaction to Bodega might seem harsh, but it’s understandable. Technological changes happen so fast now, and often so brazenly without regard to community, that the most human reaction is: “Will you stop to think about what you’re doing?”Seen in the larger scope of people’s growing understanding of tech’s rattling effect on important institutions (See: democracy, Facebook, Russian ads, Trump), any wish for real, cute, Bodega-creeping cats is expected.