Out of the Shoebox: Howell Street Grocery

Out of the Shoebox: Howell Street Grocery

I've always loved corner stores. In my next life, when I'm organized, I'll cook regularly and rely solely on corner stores and farmers' markets. Goals.

I've lived in some corner store meccas. New York City, Turkey, Tunisia, and Libya. The perfect corner store takes care of the basics, sells fantastic coffee, and has a small but perfect-every-time produce section. Garlic, onions, peppers, and tomatoes.

I romanticize corner stores, but I know it's grueling work. Long hours, razor thin margins. I imagine the barrier to entry is relatively low, while the risk is extremely high. I suspect that the number of Harvard-trained MBAs running corner stores is low, but I bet the owners of corner store markets could teach some amazing classes at Harvard on supply chains, organization, hiring, marketing, pricing, the theory of shelving, etc.

If I ever opened a corner store, it would last right up until the first rent check. A friend of mine is a bartender at Corvus. He waxes poetic about opening a corner store. He'd be awesome at it. Incredible attention to detail, an understanding of the supply chain, and a superpower level of making people feel welcome.

Shortly after moving to Capitol Hill I started taking photos of corner stores. I had a project in mind. I keyworded the photos with bodega ... sometimes bodegas. I hope Lightroom is smart enough to grab them all - s or no s. Moot point - I won't finish that project. I can't remember the origins exactly, but it was around the time that there was a wave of articles talking about Amazon Go and the disappearing corner stores. Turns out a lot of corner stores have held on...thank goodness.

But many have closed. I'm going to include a photo of the Howell Street Grocery. It's gone now, as is its neighbor the Redwood. I think the Grenada is right behind me (from where I took the photo). It was the site of a scary domestic violence incident. There are a bunch of bars just west of this location. They're pretty quiet these days.

Hang in there corner stores.

Howell Street Grocery Seattle
Howell Street Grocery, Capitol Hill, Seattle, 2017.