By Anja Asato
Bodega 420 is a local shop that has distinguished itself as a store of the local residents. It brings in items people need and caters to those within walking distance.
Located in what is considered a food desert, Bodega 420 is the only local store that sells fresh produce and other pantry foods. Other food options include Safeway, which is much farther away, and Circle K, which may not have the same selection of fresh produce.
The store opened a little over a year ago and has steadily increased sales each month.
“We aren’t here to make money,” Bodega 420 Owner Adrian Fontes said. He and and his wife, Mona, opened the ever evolving mom and pop shop together.
Bodega 420 did not start out as a general store type of operation. Originally, they sold hardware, but then started partnering with a local company called Udder Delights for milk and dairy products. They gradually expanded to carry food products and common household items.
“A model like this doesn’t work anywhere else,” Fontes said. He and his wife went out to talk to people in the neighborhood to find out what types of products people wanted but often could not get access to.
Bodega 420 strives to be a simple, direct, model but is willing to constantly make changes to better serve the community.
“Most businesses have an internally focused method. We have exactly the opposite view,” Fontes said.
One of the most unique features of the store is a chalkboard behind the cash register. People give ideas for items they want the store to carry and customers vote on them. Over the past year, around three dozen new items have been added at the request of customers. One of the most recent additions is the sunglasses stand. “We are not so arrogant to think we have the perfect recipe,” Fontes said.
Although the store is considered a market, it sells quite an array of goods. Customers can find anything from jumper cables to butterfly fairy wands to pancake mix.
Bodega 420 is also home to a second hand childrens clothing store called Squid and Monkey as well as an art gallery called Los Gypsies.
“We want people to have a sense of connectivity to the store,” said Fontes. During the cooler months, people will often relax on the porch of the store. They also added a video game machine near the front door due to the frequent requests from customers.
Bodega 420 is the place where those living nearby can run to when they need something in a hurry. “People can come here a few times a week and then venture to a larger store like Safeway every three weeks and be fine,” Fontes said.
Locals will often run over to Bodega 420 in their pajamas to grab a snack or a soda. The store tries to cater to everyone and make anyone feel welcome. The prices are also economical and easy to understand. Everything is rounded to a quarter and all taxes are included in the sale prices.
As for the future, Frontes isn’t sure where the store will go. “We plan to be here for a long time and let the community decide where we are going next. There is a real freedom with that kind of attitude,” Frontes said.