A bodega is a convenience store, a small shop which carries an assortment of items ranging from toiletries to dog food. Convenience stores have a number of other colorful sobriquets, depending on the region of the world under discussion; the term “bodega” is used in New York City and among some Hispanic communities, referencing the Spanish word for “warehouse.” As a general rule, the prices at a convenience store are higher than those at other markets; consumers literally pay for the convenience of a small local store so that they do not have to embark on an expedition when they need a simple product.
The offerings at a bodega vary widely, depending on the neighborhood. Many offer a limited supply of produce and foods which are extremely shelf stable, like chips, crackers, jerky, nuts, and so forth. A few personal toiletries like soap, toothpaste, shampoo, and feminine hygiene products are also typically stocked, along with batteries, flashlights, lighters, and various car supplies. Many bodegas also offer alcohol and tobacco, along with ice cream, lottery tickets, magazines, and newspapers. In some neighborhoods, the bodega is a local fixture, and people also use it as a source of community news.
In New York, the term “bodega” is usually used only to describe a store which is independently owned, or a small, local chain. Chain stores are referred to by their names, and many people do not have the same positive associations with chains that they might with their local bodega. It is not uncommon for customers to get friendly with the owner and staff, and on occasion the bodega may offer services like delivery, stamps, and so forth for additional neighborhood convenience.
Some critics of convenience stores have pointed out that they tend to carry less healthy food choices than larger markets, and that they tend to be concentrated in areas of low socio-economic class. This criticism also applies to many bodegas, although some do offer a surprising array of fresh fruits and vegetables along with local food products like breads, tamales, and burritos.
Like other convenience stores, bodegas are also associated with an increased risk of crime. Criminals often hold up small markets in high-density areas because they can do a great deal of business, and they may not always be able to secure their cash. Some bodegas have security measures in place like bullet-proof glass, cages for the windows, and a safe which staff members cannot access to deter criminals.