For many, the whole point of a bodega is that you can get Doritos, cigarettes, and Gatorade all at once, but photographer Eric Hopf is looking to change that in the near future, setting his sights on opening what would be the city’s first vegan bodega.
“Approximately two to two and a half years ago after I got together with my partner and I saw a vegan grocery store in Seattle, I thought, Why doesn’t New York City have something like this?” explains Hopf, who is vegan. “So then a year ago before my daughter was born, I was in Florida and I saw an advertisement for a vegan convenience store. … I went and checked out the space, and it was tiny but stocked well. The fellow who owned it told me he invested his retirement fund in it, but the place became profitable pretty quickly. I thought if someone could do it in Orlando, I thought it could be done in New York City.”
Hopf is particularly interested in setting up shop on the Lower East Side, and is currently looking at spaces there and talking with owners. He’s also looking to raise capital for his venture through the website IndieGoGo, having met nearly 10 percent of his $15,000 goal already.
“We want to try and do a mix of products,” says Hopf. “For the healthy vegans, we’ll have raw items, but also junk food. We’re investigating about produce and fruit. At the very least we are going to partner with a CSA farmer in New York or New Jersey and be a collection point if they want to join.” He also wants to focus on New York-centric vegan items and help support the city’s other vegan ventures. He’s also looking at carrying the other main staple of bodegas — beer — but notes that the process for getting licensed is both lengthy and costly.
Operating any business can be tricky, but Hopf believes his store will be a success because he’ll be the first to market. “The vegan aspect is under-served in this regard. You can go into health-food stores, but there isn’t a place where you can get everything. We want to show people that you can get the same type of food, but plant-based.”