Long Live the Bodega
Bodegas like Susan’s in Queens, NY aren’t just a part of the community — they create it
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.
From the platform at the Seneca Avenue train station in Queens, NY, the Empire State Building’s silhouette is just visible.
It’s a whisper of luxury, the glamour of Manhattan quickly giving way to Ridgewood’s arching, asphalt hills and graffitied rooftops. As daylight fades, the streetlights begin an electric choir, and the neon facades of the many bodegas that line the avenue come aglow.
Ridgewood Finest Deli; Classic Deli & Grill; JMC. On short walks home from the station, I’ve frequented most of these spots. I’ve dipped into JMC to scan its selection of avocados for a quick last-minute dinner. I’ve sprinted down to Ridgewood Finest after realizing I didn’t have a lemon or enough garlic for a recipe halfway through cooking. And despite turning my back on Buy & Go numerous times due to rudeness, its Haagen-Dazs selection keeps calling me back.
But while I consider all of these to be my local bodega, it’s Susan’s I frequent most.
Sitting on the corner of Onderdonk Avenue — just off the main strip of Seneca — Susan’s Deli Grocery is an unremarkable storefront bodega. After the owners have rolled up the metal gate with a resounding thud on early mornings, the odor of cooked bacon wafts through the recessed doorway.
As a Nuyorican, I grew up with Puerto Rican bodegas as a big part of my life. Bodegas represented a tradition of community and a culture that I still needed education on, even though I held it near my heart. The…