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The window display is plain, boring, all the items lined up just so. Toilet paper, laundry detergent, and various other bottled cleaning products stacked perfectly with labels facing out toward passers-by. The store is small, hinting at age with plain off-white bricks and the sun-bleached faces of bottles and boxes that have spent too long in their cases.
But this is not a convenience store, never mind the few bags of chips, a drink machine inside, and other odds and ends. The real treasure lies on the other side of a door disguised as a Snapple vending machine: Bodega, the best kept secret of the urban hipsters of Boston.
Down the road from the Hynes Convention Center T stop on Massachusetts Avenue, Bodega hides in plain sight and the Snapple machine is the key. As the door slides open, I leave the cramped space of a suspiciously small convenience store and walk into every male urbanite’s dream: expensive shoes and vintage clothing.
“It’s an exclusive spot where hipsters and the ‘cool kids’ can go to do a bit of shopping,” said Arthur Sabuka, a frequent Bodega customer. “The fact that not many people can find it makes it that much cooler.”
The classy wooden shelves line the walls from top to bottom, bearing sleek shoes that reflect an older style, hats that fit just so, and T-shirts and jackets that ooze effortless cool down the sleeves. Keith Haring’s art work is displayed over the walls, reminiscent of the 1980s New York art scene.
Although hipsters pride themselves on rejecting mainstream culture and existing outside mere labels, Bodega is full of them – brand names like Nike, Adidas, and Vans. It’s the kind of place you can buy a gray T-shirt with “Shut Up & Drink A Beer” scrolled across the front for $30.
The atmosphere is heavy with urban nonchalance, guys strolling among the shelves without any trace of annoyance normally displayed on shopping trips. This is their haven for finding that perfect pair of shoes that say, “I’m too cool to care.”
Bodega’s success rivals sneaker boutiques in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, catapulting this small shop to international fame. But ask anyone passing you on the streets of Boston if they know where the shop is and you’ll be hard-pressed to get an answer. With no phone in the shop and a limited on-line store, Bodega relies heavily on word-of-mouth to get customers.
But that’s the point. Bodega clings to its secrets well, keeping the urban hipster’s mysteries hidden within a Snapple machine at the back of a small convenience store.