Should Your Local Bodega Get “Wired”?

Bodega in Brooklyn, via Flickr user Paul Kostro.

I wrote a piece for WNYC.org yesterday on a report put out by The Center for Urban Future that I’ve been thinking about. Here’s the gist of what the report says:

“A technology gap is hurting small New York City businesses, especially mom-and-pop stores and those owned by immigrants or minorities in boroughs other than Manhattan. According to the report, small businesses with 20 employees or less make up over 90 percent of the city’s businesses, yet fewer than 20 percent of them are effectively capitalizing on technology. For example, few retail and service stores owned by lower and moderate-income New Yorkers, have websites or do any online marketing, the report notes.

Small businesses like these are “10 or 15 years behind,” said David Meade, executive director of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, in the report. “[Lack of technology] doesn’t necessarily impact the client base they have already built up. But it impacts their ability to develop new clientele, and to get their world out there more,” he said.”

The report’s authors say these business should be using Google Ads, digital payroll programs and customer management software.

I asked my local bodega owners, Amani and Mousa Zeidan, what they thought of these recommendations…

The Palestinian couple have owned their Carroll Gardens corner store for three years.  ”It’s just me and him. We write down our inventory. We ring people up like that,” Amani Zeidan said, pointing to a manual cash register. “The problem is the train station,” her husband chimed in. “When it reopens, business will come back to life.”

For Mr. & Mrs. Zeidan is all comes down to foot traffic. When I asked them if they were on the web, they said yes, Google, because last year the Google Maps car drove by. The picture posted on the internet lets you see right into the store, they said.

I don’t choose to go into a bodega because I found it on the web or follow it on Twitter–I go in because it’s right there. And I need a seltzer RIGHT NOW. And there’s something really lovely about stores that still do things the old-fashioned way.

The point made by The Center for Urban Future is that NYC needs to support small business owners by teaching them what technology does for a small business, not just how it works. But do you think the corner store really needs to get “wired”? Maybe we just need a reminder that bodegas are our neighbors and instead of buying cases of seltzer from Costco, we should make a point to buy from them? What about your local bodega? Is it tech savvy?

 

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