Sunday, June 9, 2024


[54 E. 105th Street, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view and many details.]

I often wish that tax photographs came with a smart-looking border all around. No soap. But you might find some for sale in that bodega, at the corner of 105th and Madison.

Here comes some history, paraphrased from the Oxford English Dictionary:

The Spanish bodega first meant a wine cellar, wine shop, or bar. Later, a warehouse. Finally, a grocery store. The word derives from the classical Latin apothēca, a storehouse.

The word’s first meaning in English (1702): a warehouse. By 1825, “a building for storing or ageing wine, sherry, etc.” or “an establishment producing wine, sherry, etc.; a wine producer; a winery.” By 1849,

esp. in Spanish-speaking countries: a bar; a tavern. In the late 19th century sometimes (with reference to establishments in Britain): a bar, shop, etc., specializing in the serving of wine.

The specific British sense may derive from the Bodega Spanish Wine Cellars, opened in 1868 in Manchester, which was soon followed by other similarly named establishments in other cities.
In Philippine English (1851), the word came to mean “a storeroom or storehouse forming part of a house or other building.

And here’s the kind of bodega I was looking for:
U.S. regional (originally New York City ). A small local shop, usually with long opening hours, where customers can buy a limited range of household goods and groceries; a convenience store.

The term was first used with reference to Puerto Rican-owned businesses in New York in the 1950s and 1960s, but is now used there more widely to refer to any local shop of this type.
It’s fair to say that the bodega has supplanted the candy store of yore, offering a wider variety of goods and groceries along with chopped cheese and other food items to go. And “ATM Inside.”

La Nacional Boedga y Carniceria is long gone, and the corner is now home to an enormous parking structure. But there’s a bodega right across the street, open from 6:00 or 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Related reading
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives (Pinboard)

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

looks like a conservatory of music next door

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, one of the great details. I like the Salada Tea sign — one of the once-ubiquitous advertisers in small NYC groceries.