If you’re starting a new independent clothing store in Boston’s typically fashion-challenged environs, you’d probably take out an ad to promote your grand opening and give away cheap-but-seemingly-generous swag to the first days’ customers. But if you’re opening a high-end-streetwear boutique meant to become a global destination and you have a clue about the Internet-hyped urban market, you’d instead keep your store on the down low, build the environment into something that’s more like a living-art installation than like a straight-product shill, and wait for the customers to come to you.
That’s pretty much what the three owners of Boston’s brand-new streetwear shop Bodega have done. Even though the brick-and-mortar business doesn’t open until this Saturday, and there’s no signage outside its Clearway Street location (near the Christian Science complex), random strangers have already been poking around the premises, shoppers have already bought two-grand Dr. Romanelli leather jackets (the retrofitted designer track/leather goods worn by Jay-Z), and one sneakerhead who had a preliminary walk-through already gushed on the 48,000-member-plus messageboard NikeTalk.com, “When Bodega opens, it will be deemed the best spot in the country!!”
“This type of culture, in marketing terms, is truly alpha consumer — these are the people who write your stories in magazines and write your raps,” says Bodega co-conspirator and DJ/grafhead Oliver Mak, about his obsessively early-adopting consumer base. (See “Life, Love, and Sneakers,” News and Features, February 17.) While Bodega will carry high-end brands like Vans Vault, Gravis, and JB Classics, the store’s specialty will be vintage Nike, Adidas, and Puma gear — merchandise that’s already gotten around the Web. An Internet leak forced Mak, with partners Dan Natola (“the one with street cred who still gets in trouble,” says Mak) and Jay Gordon (“the older, responsible-looking one”) to postpone their launch, planned for an earlier date, until this weekend.
Bodega’s retail concept is a stroke of genius: one of the birthplaces of hip-hop/graffiti/sneaker/urban culture is the corner store. Even one of Adidas’s most recent marketing stunts for its relaunched early-’80s product line Adicolor was to randomly display seven individual shoe samples in various New York corner stores. So while there are a couple of “magical” secrets about the place that its inventive owners are still trying to keep hush-hush, Bodega is not only designed to convert into an art gallery, but there’s also an awesome fully functional bodega on site, replete with grape sodas, candy necklaces, and ceiling tiles that have had coffee poured on them to mimic water stains. Mak says with a smirk, “We wanted to get flytraps that already had flies in it and mice traps that had mice in it.”
In truth, Bodega is innovative not only for Boston, but for retail. “Will Bostonians really get it? That’s not really our aim,” says Mak. “This is a global market. But we’d like to put a flag in the sand and be like, there’s really good stuff coming out of Boston. SoHo isn’t the only scene on earth.” Bodega opens this Saturday, May 13, at 6 Clearway Street, Boston | bdgastore.com