Would you buy an artisanal roach bomb for $15.99? What about a five-hour slow-roasted energy drink for $14.99? These were the “products” and the prices tags on offer in a Brooklyn bodega recently.
Owner Ghassan Itayim, also known as Jesse, told Marketplace that the satirical signs were “serious and funny at the same time.” Itayim’s store, Jesse’s Deli, is in a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn, and he says that in order to afford a recent rent hike (from $4,000 to $10,000), he’d need to charge prices like that.
In an attempt to save the deli, two loyal customers, Doug Cameron and Tommy Noonan, came up with the idea for the public satire. Noonan and Cameron, who both work in advertising, called the stunt the “Artisanal Landlord Price-Hike Sale.”
“The pro-artisanal folks — the hipster class, let’s call it — are the ones certainly that are driving up the rents,” Cameron told Marketplace. “But at the same time, they’re the ones who in many cases, really feel strong toward keeping these small businesses.”
In a city where neighborhood bodegas are a treasured staple, the campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the fact that thousands of small businesses have lost leases amid drastic rent increases. It’s certainly one of the more creative attacks against gentrification that I’ve seen.
And phase one of the campaign has been such a success, they’ve moved onto phase two: AirBnBodega.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.