Interview by Melanie Gropler

The story of Bodega based in the heart of Boston started back in 2006 when Oliver Mak, Jay Gordon, and Dan Natola opened a store with the idea to compile all of the best things that are worth searching for.
With an assortment of apparel and sneakers the store run by the three guys who had barely any retail experience was an instant success. Approaching retail as installation art, Bodega quickly obtained legendary status in the streetwear and sneakerhead scenes and continues to explore projects within fashion and culture. Oliver Mak, co-owner of Bodega: “Our core DNA is always about the creativity of fashion through the lens of street. We found a way to communicate that through the brick and mortar." Here, he discusses how to create the experience of discovery and focus on atmosphere and experience.

Bodega, Boston
Bodega, Boston


Why did you open your store? Tells us the story and your motivation!
We opened Bodega as a clubhouse for our crew as well as a showroom for our ideas and designs. It was important to us to create a space that reflected our point of view… a place that we belonged to.
Nothing really resonated with me in the retail world – my perspective was subculture with time split between record shops, the rock'n'roll night club I worked at, and the heady loft / basement parties where I DJ'd at art openings. There was a moment when we felt the underground could be sustainable and we put the squad together to open the retail component.

Bodega, Boston
Bodega, Boston


What is important for you in terms of shop fitting and store design?
We deconstructed what it meant to hunt for your grail products. We wanted to create the experience of discovery and place it in the context of the culture that made the objects relevant. The greatest honor was when a publication called it a “living art installation.” In terms of store design, the displays are minimal so that the product has the space to breathe.

What are the anchor brands? Which brands have you recently added to the assortment?
Our focus on the atmosphere and experience would be pointless without outstanding product to back it up. We’ve had incredible success with collaborative design projects, most notably the Saucony Elite range which we launched for them back in ’08.  It positioned the label to capitalize on the runner craze we’re experiencing now. Other footwear anchors include Nike, which we have Tier 0 for, Adidas, where we are part of the Consortium design program, and Vans Vault. Acronym,  Nanamica and Stone Island always have incredible collections for outerwear. We recently added Carhartt WIP and it entirely escapes me why we didn’t have it previously.

Bodega, Boston
Bodega, Boston


What are five products you couldn’t live without right now?
1) Vintage Austrian Cruiser Bike
2) Technics 1200 and vinyl collection
3) Bodrum French Press Coffee Maker
4) Custom Built Gaming PC
5) Sesame Oil (I cook a lot)

Which fairs do you visit? Or do you only order at showrooms? Where do you inform yourself about trends?
We rock with Agenda, Capsule  and Liberty. We also attend showroom presentations. Trend itself is everywhere – the challenge with that is knowing how to parse the information.

Bodega, Boston
Bodega, Boston


Did your store’s sales increase or decrease over last year? To what do you attribute your gain or loss in sales?
We’re up from last year both instore & online (bdgastore.com). Our photo team backed by our incredible customer service is the big reason why online grew. Plus, we earned some nice accollades last year with Slamxhype, Complex and Freshness placing  our site on a couple top 10 lists. Instore, we added some new blood to the mix.

What makes your store different and in what ways does your store excel beyond your competition?
Our core DNA is always about the creativity of fashion through the lens of street. We found a way to communicate that through the brick and mortar. With our design projects, we keep trying to reset & introduce ideas through the brand mix, our interest & instincts intersect…I hope that comes through.

Bodega, Boston
Bodega, Boston


How do you stay in touch with the wants and needs of your customers?
We’re in the shop all the time & we get feedback from our sales staff. Experience has taught us how to weigh information and when to say Oui or No, Si o No.

Is there a kind of model store for you? Some shop (worldwide), which inspires you?
Keith Haring’s Pop Shop (86-05 NYC) was an early inspiration for me. I loved the idea of being enveloped in someone’s art like that – especially with the Pop Shop integrating well with the street art around it.
I really like the vintage stores in Harajuku and Bobby’s from Boston in our backyard.

Bodega, Boston
Bodega, Boston


What is the biggest challenge for retailing right now?
Maintaining margins while you’re competing in the global online world.

Which is the most important ingredient for successful retailing?
Business is much like a marriage - you have to keep falling in love with what you’re doing to justify the time and effort you put in. You have good years, and bad ones, but love is what endures.

Bodega, Boston
Bodega, Boston


store's address:
Bodega
6 Clearway St. 
Boston, MA 02115
USA
bdgastore.com