No 7-Eleven

Resisting Chain Stores and Corporate Control

Neighborhood Profile – Ciao for Now

Ciao for Now

Ciao for Now

Ciao for Now

Ciao for Now burbles with cappuccino machines and the sweet smell of freshly baked muffins fills the air. The cozy cafe on 12th Street has been in business for 12 years. Ciao for Now owners, Amy and Kevin, have lived, worked, and raised their children in the East Village. The place they now call home. Amy grew up in Nebraska and Kevin in the greater New York area and California.

The cafe has a constant flow of local customers – the morning rush is filled with business people on their way to work, artists getting their morning fix of joe, and parents taking a break after dropping their kids off at school. Their freshly baked goods are what they are known for and what people crave. Baked the homemade way. Amy is all about good nutrition and whole ingredients.

“I think about long term and the effects nutrition has on our health. We are all going to get old and this food is an investment in ourselves,” she says.

A silver haired older woman comes in. “Their apple turnovers are the best! I come here daily for them. I wouldn’t miss a day without one.”

Ciao for Now has a steady stream of regulars throughout the day. With a lovely sit down dining area, they provide breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good, wholesome food for the people of the East Village.

Amy and Kevin are cooking and managing their store from 4:30am – 8pm, 7 days a week. They have raised Ciao for Now from the ground up. They run their business for the people and their children.

“We don’t pay for a PR person,” Amy says. “We donate to the school because they need money and we need them. It’s a lovely relationship. There should be more of that in this world. People have a real interest in keeping this neighborhood what it is. We’ve stayed protected over here.”

But the idea of chains encroaching on Avenue A is a big deal for places like Ciao for Now.

Amy’s concern is that a place like 7-Eleven will drive property values up and that it could drive small businesses out of the neighborhood. “The East Village doesn’t want McDonalds, it doesn’t want Starbucks and it doesn’t want 7-Eleven because they drive up the rents.”

But a 7-Eleven is opening at 170 Avenue A, even though work has come to a screeching halt as of late.

Amy and Kevin fear large corporations moving into this neighborhood. “It will kill the excitement and entrepreneurial spirit. You can’t fight it, there’s no way we can compete with people who have investors, stock holders and share holders. We don’t have any of that, it’s just us. Working as hard as we can to keep it going everyday. That’s all we have.”

Amy explains, “People come in here and ask why do you charge for an avocado? Because I’m paying for the same avocado you buy at the grocery store, it just gets delivered to me at 5 o’clock in the morning. I don’t have the buying power to get 20 cases of avocados and leave them downstairs because 19 of those cases would rot and I would lose my money. It’s easy for the corporations to get away with it because they are supplying and buying for 90 stores. Their buying power is unbelievable. They can get products at no cost.”

7-Eleven offers little more than junk food and food-like products which are full of preservatives. “Their product is on the shelf for… you don’t know how long,” says Kevin. “If people really knew the additives and preservatives that went into those food products to keep them preserved and wrapped up like that. And then you are putting that into your body?”

Amy adds, “I’d rather spend a little bit more money on higher quality food, and eat less of it, then get a whole bunch more food with no nutritional value. I tell my kids that all the time.”

“We’ve been brainwashed in this society to think that ‘cheaper is better’  and ‘it’s all about your budget’ and ‘Walmart is better,'” Amy says ironically.  “Walmart comes in and wipes out a whole community because Walmart researches it and they can provide all those services cheaper with employes who don’t get paid decent wages.”

“We have people working for us at Ciao for Now for eleven and a half years. That’s something you want to do is support the people who support you. If we are always just looking for the bottom dollar we are never going to get past that problem.”

Amy throws her arms up. “Banks and trans fats! What are you gonna do?”

Ciao for Now
Kevin and Amy

Ciao for Now
523 East 12th Street
Between Avenues A & B

Bodega Profile – Poppy’s Gourmet Corner

Poppy's Gourmet Corner - Salvador and Mike

Salvador and Mike from Poppy’s Gourmet Corner

Poppy’s Gourmet Corner, a local bodega located at 191 Avenue A, is situated only one block from the new 7-Eleven scheduled to open in June. The owner of Poppy’s, a gentleman named Mike, has lived in the neighborhood for over thirty years, twenty-five of those years he spent running another bodega on 10th Street and Avenue A.

Today Mike is enjoying the conversation he’s having with his employees, Salvador and Philip.  With their help Mike’s business runs smoothly. They are loyal to Mike and they really enjoy working together. All three of them have a symbiotic relationship rotating through register, grill and restocking – noticing where help is needed and making sure to be there. They are committed to Mike and Poppy’s.

Poppy's Gourmet Corner - Philip and Salvador

Philip and Salvador from Poppy’s Gourmet Corner

Mike has been the owner of Poppy’s Gourmet Corner for the last 4 years. The local bodega is named after his grandfather, Poppy, a pet name. He offers me a free coffee as we talk. I take it gratefully. It is good!

Mike gives us the dish on the previous owners of the building his bodega resides in.

The previous owners gave the building to their son who was just in it for the money. They took advantage of the woman who owned Bar on A, now the 7-Eleven construction site at 170 Avenue A. According to Mike they gave her a crummy deal and a promise of an apartment but didn’t keep their word.

Poppy's Gourmet CornerAn older gentleman enters the store and Mike’s eyes come to life.

“Ah, Sal! Coffee? Iced?”

Sal comes to Poppy’s for the good coffee and egg sandwiches – scrambled on a roll with ham. “Mike is my friend,” says Sal. “I come here for the good food. He has everything. Summer time I get my iced coffee. Poppy’s is convenient, good and inexpensive.”

Sal has lived in the neighborhood for fifty years and when he heard a 7-Eleven was planned to open in June diagonally across the street he says, “I’m sticking with Mike!”

A few more loyal Poppy’s customers drop by. Michael, a serious regular who works right next door at Stand Up MRI, stops by to pick up a bagel with cream cheese. “These are cool people,” Michael says of Mike, Salvator and Philip. “I’m not going to go all the way down there,” he says jokingly pointing across the street where the 7-Eleven is being constructed.

Poppy's Gourmet Corner - Michael and Mike

Loyal Poppy’s customer Michael with Poppy’s owner Mike

Cynthia, a young woman in her 20’s who is also a loyal Poppy’s customer, walks in and hears us talking. “What will 7-Eleven have that they don’t have here? I’ll still shop here when 7-Eleven opens.” Cynthia points to Mike. “He greets me! And he’s the only one who get’s my coffee right,” she says. Mike smiles. Another happy customer.

Bodega Profile – 528 East Eleven Deli Corp.

528 East Eleven Deli Corp.
Thomas Gonzales - 528 East Eleven Deli Corp.

Thomas Gonzales grew up on Broome Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He owns two local bodegas, 528 East Eleven Deli Corp. and the Broome Street Grocery. He appears to be young for his accomplishments. We recently caught up with him at his 11th Street bodega.

With three employees Thomas runs a relaxed, tight ship. You can often catch him behind the counter, working the register and conversing with his local customers and friends. His charming personality and twinkling eyes are very welcoming.

Thomas’s customers are loyal and over the 7 years he has owned his bodegas, most have become close friends, like Jessica who lives across street from the 7-Eleven construction site. Drinking her morning coffee she was surprised to hear a 7-Eleven was coming to a neighborhood already served by a number of bodegas.

“Is that what it’s going to be? Nobody shops at 7-Eleven! We don’t need another store. We’ve got this bodega, a bodega on 12th Street and Avenue B and another one on 12th Street and Avenue A ,” she says. “7-Eleven should be in a place where the people need it. I don’t think it’s going to last. I won’t shop there! My children like this store and they like Mr. Thomas.”

Thomas smiles at this. He knows his customers and he knows what they need – good homemade comfort food. While we chat more customers stream in. Thomas knows them all, from the local old timers to the students on their way to class. They come to his bodega to buy their freshly made breakfast sandwiches – steak and eggs – tostones (plantains), coffee, milk and juice.

Fresh, organic food at 528 East Eleven Deli Corp.

Thomas recognizes the customers who live in the neighborhood and tries to accommodate their various and changing needs by selling everyday organic products like milk, eggs and cheese.

Rockman - 528 East Eleven Deli CorpMore customers stop in. Rockman is a devoted 11th Street customer. He works at the delivery company RDS on 11th Street between Avenue A and 1st Ave. He orders his two sandwiches, steak and eggs for himself and an egg sandwich for his co-worker.

From his place of work Rockman passes the 7-Eleven construction site to get to this bodega. He goes out of his way to shop here “because of its good people, familiar faces and its good, fresh, cheap food!” He shops here because this is his neighborhood bodega and he is committed to its success in the neighborhood.

Like many people we spoke with this morning, Rockman wouldn’t think of buying food at the new 7-Eleven.“7-Eleven has these… things rolling in the window for hours. Who wants to eat that? It’s not fresh.”

Vincent, an older distinguished man pops his head in.

“Thomas, where’s your car?” he asks.
“I left it home,” says Thomas.
“I’ll give you a ride to Broome Street. My car is across the street,” says Vincent.
Thomas takes the ride with Vincent, his customer, friend and neighbor.

Vincent - 528 East Eleven Deli Corp
Vincent, 528 East Eleven Deli Corp. friend and customer