Wild, Wild West Broadway

I ran into Juan, the guy who used to work at the bodega on West Broadway at Prince, when I was getting pizza the other day at Ben’s.  He said he remembered me, remembered my face as a little girl.  He pretty much looks exactly the same as he did over thirty years ago.  I thought Juan owned the bodega, but he said he just worked there (for 17 years!).  He still lives on West Broadway (for 41 years!) and works as a super in a few buildings in the neighborhood.  And he still doesn’t speak English all too well.   I told him I missed his bodega.

The bodega didn’t have a name, and it really didn’t need one.  Although there were a few bodegas in the area, everyone knew that you meant THAT bodega if you said you were going to stop in to “the bodega” to buy a few things.

I really do miss that bodega.  It was pre M&O, pre-Korean deli on Thompson Street.  It was the only show in town.  I used to catch the P.S.3 school bus there every morning, and in the afternoons there were card games on milk crates on the sidewalk. I once bought a box of instant oatmeal there.  I brought it home, “cooked” it up, and noticed hundreds of little bugs crawling around my bowl.  I think I might have already taken a bite or two.  After that, I wrote my first and only ever consumer complaint letter to Quaker Oats.  I think I was about nine or ten years old.  A few weeks later, I received letter of apology and a coupon for a free box of oatmeal, which I promptly redeemed—guess where?

I recently asked around to see what other folks remembered about the bodega.  The sinful steak sandwiches, the weed they sold behind the counter, and the barbecues.  They used to roast a whole pig in the parking lot next door.  Juan said he quite enjoyed those barbecues and that he would still do them if he could find a good lot.  He also told me that once a woman called the cops to complain about the pig (how ironic).  An officer showed up and asked when the pig would be done.  He returned at the designated hour with a loaf of bread and Juan made him two sandwiches.

So if any of yous want to relive the old days and happen to have a whole pig handy, let me know, and I’ll get ol’Juan on the horn.  FYI, this BBQ will be strictly BYOB (bring your own bread)!

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15 Responses to “Wild, Wild West Broadway”

  1. Deanna Says:

    Juan’s our super!

  2. Mark Gabor Says:

    You’ve brought it all back. I can still taste the steak sandwiches! Thanks — Mark

  3. Aristides Pappidas Says:

    Then there was the jefe; Miguel or “Mike”. The owner. One eyed, placid/Buddha-like, who occasionally punned. I really liked him.

    Was Juan the guy who almost always wore a brown paper bag hat…..with his name penned at forehead level?

  4. Sean Says:

    They used to give free shots of liquor at Christmas.

  5. SOHOMAN Says:

    I know the family that owned the bodega. They still live in the neighborhood.

  6. Jo Gangemi Says:

    Oh the Bodega-so convenient, so reasonably priced. I really miss it.

  7. mimi Says:

    The shoe cobbler on Bleecker and Broadway wears a paper bag hat. Maybe they’re cousins.

    • Yukie Says:

      That hat actually FINALLY fell apart and he had to throw it away. I think he had that same paper hat for most of my life. Anyway, now he wears this goofy cap, like in the caps in the Caps for Sale children’s book. When I go in there, I ask him where his hat it. He always points to his head and then I say, “But where’s your HAT?” And then we laugh. It never gets old.

  8. john albin Says:

    If I’m thinking of the same store (Northwest corner of W. B’way and Prince) It did have a name — it was called Davilla’s, and it was owned by a Portuguese family. I don’t think there was a sign, but that’s what we all called it. Until sometime after I’d guess ’74 or ’75, it was the only store in the area that was open on Sundays.

  9. Guest Post Series: M. Lynch « The SoHo Memory Project Says:

    […] West Broadway has always been a main thoroughfare in SoHo.  What happens on West Broadway is often a good indicator of what’s going on in SoHo in general.  In the past, I’ve written posts about the possible renaming of West Broadway to Jackson Pollock Place (see the post here), about an early gallery on West Broadway that was perhaps a bit before its time (see the post here), about a proposal to build a mega-sports complex (see the post here), and about the pig roasts at the bodega (see the post here). […]

  10. Zoé Says:

    Lol! Brilliant – so funny about the policeman!

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