Friday, March 30, 2012

Deli Wars: Let me pop in for some foie gras and a forty.

Delis, bodegas, convenient stores. Whatever you want to call them, they are a booming business in our neighborhood.
And they are at war.
Fierce competition. New ones pop up everyday. Some provide Halal options, some are beginning to jump onto the organic/soy/good for the environment band wagon. All provide coffee that is like drinking scalding hot petrol.
At the Red Apple, they tell us every time they order soy milk and Seventh Generation dish soap that they think of us when they are buying it.
For the record. We don't drink soy milk.
We just fit the demographic.
For our area, the sign of real gentrification is not who is moving in, moving on, or moving out. It's what you can buy and where.
There is a huge difference between El Presidente beer and Magic Hat Number 9. We will walk an extra 2 blocks for the Magic. At the Majestic. The Red Apple doesn't have it.

Zam Zam has beef bacon, and I must say I was skeptical, how can anything be as mouth watering as the swine, but it's truly amazing stuff. BUT Zam Zam doesn't have the ice cream treats we like so it's back across the street to the mustachioed man at the Red Apple.
Every day a man next door walks to the Red Apple for a can of cat food, a lithe one eared black cat following along, not his cat exactly, but lives around his building and so he has taken responsibility for it.
Speaking of cats, all the bodegas have them. It keeps down the rats, and mice.
I'll take that.
They never used to mind if I carried in my little Stella when I was out for a walk and realized I was out of milk. How could they argue a little dog when there is always a giant orange cat lounging on the top shelves amongst the bottles of soda.

The newer joints are also being named Gourmet.
Well. That's a stretch.
I don't think the block boys on the corner are going to run to the deli to see if they can get some toast points for their dinner parties, or they just happened to run out of foie gras and cocktail napkins and thought the Zam Zam might just have what they need.
"Oh! If you all will excuse me please, I'll just pop down to the store and see if they have any truffle oil, I seem to have run out!"
Gourmet my ass.
Just because you put down new tiles, some wood paneling, and sweep the floor more frequently, does not make you Citarella. (For those non New Yorkers Citerella is a extravagantly expensive gourmet market that sells things like kangaroo meat and elk ribs)

Most delis these days offer premium cold cuts on their sandwiches, and are becoming more and more varied in supplies. You can choose your own adventure with the sandwiches, we will get them at some and not others, we inspect the layer of dust and grime on the deli cooler before we choose. But they are all slinging eggs, bacon, and toast in the mornings, and smelling bacon cooking while walking down the street with the dog and baby is not a bad way to start the day.
As the days, weeks and months go buy the layers of dust and grime are becoming less layered in our tiny shops. They are stepping up their game.

They have to. The times they are a changing and these places are going to have to be able to compete with the brand new GIANT Duane Reade that is going in down the block.

Rite Aid or Wrong Aid as we call it has never in my opinion been much competition for the little stores. They are inefficient, very often rude, and certainly will not extend credit when you realize you're short a dollar.
Not that Duane Reade will give you credit either, but the new ones have sandwiches, artisan bread, fancy baby food, AND nail polish.
So my little stores, watch out, and keep those counters clean, keep the cats, but keep them out of sight. We love Duane Reade, but we love you more. We love that you are interested in what we buy, that we can catch up on the neighborhood gossip. Who's gone to jail, who had died, when the memorial is, or who had a baby. I love that you will extend the kindness to a harried mommy who needs an ice cream treat for herself, and the baby, but is 25 cents short. Most of all we love that if we need you at midnight for ice cream, beer, or Pedialight, you are open and ready to do business.
And if we ever decide to start drinking soy milk...
We know you're lookin' out.

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