Atlanta needs to become more like New York City

Downtown Atlanta, and by extension Georgia State, has some of the worst food deserts in the U.S.

The closest true grocery store is Publix about a half-mile away. For the lack of traditional grocery stores downtown, there are plenty of other smaller stores. There are two CVS pharmacies, a RaceTrac gas station and a Walgreens within walking distance of the Downtown campus.

However, something Atlanta seems to lack is convenience stores, or as we call them in New York, bodegas. Beside the K Stop Market in front of the University Lofts on Edgewood Avenue, downtown Atlanta doesn’t have any stores of this type.

Also known by some as mini-grocery stores, bodegas are defined as “usually small grocery stores in an urban area, specifically ones that specialize in Hispanic groceries,” according to Merriam-Webster.

Bodegas are important to the fabric of New York culture, especially in the boroughs outside of Manhattan, mostly because there’s no space to build stores such as Walmart, Target or ShopRite, the Northeast equivalent to Publix. The limited footprint needed for bodegas allows them to be extremely successful in high-rent cities like New York.

Bodegas don’t just supply cheap and readily available grocery products for the neighborhood; they also provide jobs. Many high school-aged teens in New York typically get their first jobs at bodegas or at gas stations as pump assistants. This provides local students with income that will ultimately end up back in the neighborhood.  

It also creates a bonding location in the neighborhoods. In many communities, bodegas become a neighborhood hangout spot, and many people in the community know the shop owners. This is no different from a barbershop, where every community has that one shop all the guys go to and know each other. 

Downtown Atlanta could really do with a store that not only sells bread, butter and milk but provides an extra sense of community to not only Downtown residents but also non-resident students. If anything, this could be an ideal homeless population rehabilitation program.

Provide them with jobs, and provide them with opportunities that many of us take for granted. As Georgia State continues to grow, as Atlanta continues to grow, it’s time that the city address a few things, beginning with the lack of access to groceries in Downtown.

These mom-and-pop shops are staples of the New York experience, and if Atlanta is going to keep taking from its Northern counterpart, it might as well take this idea and run with it. Bodegas provide food, a sense of community and job opportunities that Atlanta desperately needs. It’s time that some of these abandoned buildings get put to use.