Corner Store Chronicles

Can A 71-Year-Old Corner Store in San Antonio Survive This Pandemic?

The sisters who’ve carried on the store their parents built, Cardenas Grocery, adapt and adapt in a community that often forgets them

Omar L. Gallaga
Published in
7 min readSep 21, 2020
Illustration: Derrick Dent

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting

When 2020 is said and done, it’ll likely become known as the year of massive uncertainty. But with so much instability (from Covid-19 to crimson skies on the West Coast), corner store culture remains familiar. LEVEL’s “Corner Store Chronicles” series pays homage to the power of the store that delivers the warmth and care that ACME will never replicate. Whether known as bodegas, tienditas, or another term of endearment where you’re from, our hoods would be nothing without them.

In 1949, it was just a fruit stand window.

Linda Cardenas is standing near the same window over seven decades later. It’s now inside and behind the bar part of Cardenas Grocery Bar & Grill. Behind the neon-lit Bud Light clock and above an industrial sink is the window — which Linda’s carpenter father built, and out of which her mother sold fruit to the neighborhood.

Linda Cardenes in front of the store she and her sisters run. Photos: Omar L. Gallaga

As San Antonio’s Castroville neighborhood grew, so did the business, its fortunes rising and falling with the community. Cardenas Grocery went from a modest fruit stand to a small bodega. Eventually, the little neighborhood tiendita added a meat market, which led to a grill, which led to a Bar & Grill. It survived 71 years of progress and changes, including the death of Linda’s 17-year-old brother in the ‘60s.

Juanita Cardenas at the store in 1972. Photo contributed by Linda Cardenas

Wearing a blue face mask below her glasses, Linda sits at a table next to the deli-style counter at the back of the store. “I remember the store wasn’t the same,” she says of that moment. “It struggled, but the…



Omar L. Gallaga
Writer for

Tech culture writer and podcaster, now freelancing in Texas. Bylines: Washington Post, WSJ, CNN, NPR, Wired, Texas Monthly. Here for all your wordy needs.