Food & Drink

Giving the People What They Want

Inside Ballard's Sweet New Bodega

Giving the People What They Want

Jake Nelson

The convenience store—also known as the bodega, party store, corner shop, 7-Eleven, and/or mini-mart—is one of the crucial cogs of American society. Such stores are so common, they're easy to take for granted. You don't need one until you do, and then the sprint to the mini-mart instead of the drive to the supermarket makes all the difference in the world: the midnight diaper run, the racing-to-a-job-interview-and-need-a-cigarette tango, the crushingly immediate Pringles need.

The bodegas I know best are those situated in my time-sensitive path: the Good Neighbor Mart around the corner from where I live in the Central District (close enough for an early-morning milk run in pajamas); the Plaid Pantry across from the Seven Gables Theatre in the University District (many a 10:00 a.m. press screening has been fueled by convenient granola bars); that whatever-the-hell-it-is-mart near On the Boards in Lower Queen Anne, perfect for intermission munchies- busting (if you attend OtB without cottonmouth, you're a fool).

For many lucky Ballardites, the ass-saving bodega of choice will soon be Snacks!, a spiffy one-room shop that recently opened next to King's Hardware on Ballard Avenue Northwest. Snacks! was conceived and created by Dante Rivera, the man behind Ballard's beloved hot-doggery Dante's Inferno Dogs. His dream for Snacks!: a small but effective mini-mart offering all the convenience-store standards (candy, soda, toiletries) alongside higher-end local products (Zane & Zack's hot sauces, Molly Moon's ice cream). Ultimately, Snacks! hopes to operate as a sort of convenience-store satellite of the retail portion of the Ballard Farmers Market, with an inventory split 50-50 between 7-Eleven staples and local specialties.

For now, Snacks! is a wide-open work in progress, a fact addressed by the two-by-four-foot wish list hanging near the door that invites customers to share their dreams for Snacks! inventory. It is the greatest poem about America since "Leaves of Grass":

Pita bread


Rap Snacks

Soy creamer!

Vernors ginger ale (X2!!)

Grey Poupon

Cheap champagne

Tastykakes! (YES!!!!!!)

Shredded cheese

Sparks (black can!)

Frozen pizza

Fingernail clippers

Stash teas

Smarties (YES! Yes!)

Day of the Dead candles!

Asian snacks!

Pinball machines


It's a brilliantly obvious way to stock a store: Ask people want they want, then sell it to them. As it is, the ever-evolving inventory of Snacks! covers plenty of bases in fine style. Spinning hardware-store nail bins are filled with quick-grab snacks. A tin bucket brims with individual lightbulbs. A small, old-timey freezer hums in the corner with a bellyful of 25¢ Otter Pops. In the center of the shop: an elegant wooden display table, home to local specialties that will eventually fill half the store. Looking down on everything: the elevated platform holding the cash register, its operator, and a small variety of hot and cold food options. The hot: prepped-on-the-premises wieners from Dante's Inferno Dogs, including the legendary Coney Island dog, featuring sauce imported by Rivera from his home state of Michigan. The cold: the Chilly Dog, a visionary concoction involving a lightly toasted hot-dog bun covered with a layer of smooth peanut butter and filled with soft-serve ice cream. (Speaking of stoner-friendly delights: Snacks! also offers a variety of puddings in single-serving cups, kept chilled in a refrigerated bin. The store stays open till 2:30 a.m. both Friday and Saturday.)

But more than the sum of its for-sale parts, Snacks! hopes to grow into a vibrant new oasis in the life of Ballard Avenue—a business designed to help all the other businesses in the neighborhood run more smoothly ("Eighty percent of our business comes from nearby merchants," Rivera tells me), housed in a po-mo mom-and-pop store where regulars are known by name. And while the store's not yet fully stocked, Rivera says the foundation of Snacks! "has the feeling I'm looking for."

Late on a Friday night, this commercial-meets-communal feeling is in full effect. When I enter, the young clerk issues a friendly "Hi!" then gets back to serving the group before him—a half-dozen twentysomethings out for a night of Ballard barhopping, stopping in for some heat-busting soft-serve. "It's her birthday!" announces one of the group, and the clerk leads the store in tributary song. Meanwhile, a make-up-caked refugee from the night's Zombie Walk stops in for a Red Bull and joins in the singing. Snacks!: Uniting tipsy birthday girls, lagging zombies, and needy stoners since 2009. recommended

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Comments (22) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
wow, you are a terrible writer.
Posted by a really terrible one on July 17, 2009 at 1:20 PM · Report this
Can't be a bodega unless it's run by a Puerto Rican. Can't be a Coney Island dog with some bullshit sauce from Michigan.
only some fuck-up writing for the stranger would think customer requests are a "brilliantly obvious" way to stock a store.

what's next, accepting cash is a "brilliantly obvious" way to collect payment?

feeble minds are so easily impressed.
Posted by you should get out more on July 17, 2009 at 3:00 PM · Report this
consider the failed career of the dude who wrote this review:

He's also the world's foremost authority on the brilliant horribleness of Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls, performing annotated Showgirls screenings at film festivals across the U.S. and providing the commentary track to MGM's special editon Showgirls DVD in 2004.

WOW. How the mighty have fallen. The world's foremost authority on a failed movie from 2004 resorts to earning a sad little living by reviewing snack shops that sell soda and beef jerky.
Posted by LEAVE WALT WHITMAN OUT OF THIS!! on July 17, 2009 at 3:06 PM · Report this
David has his own personal hater. That's adorable.
Posted by shabadoo on July 17, 2009 at 3:23 PM · Report this

@5, oh please. The self-proclaimed "world's foremost authority on Showgirls" stuck reviewing teeny tiny snack shop is damn funny.

I guess David's career didn't quite work out. Better luck next life. Hey anyone know where I can find Cool Ranch Dorritos in Ballard?
Posted by successful person on July 17, 2009 at 4:31 PM · Report this

Who's my Delaware Valleyan brother or sister??
Posted by UberAlles on July 17, 2009 at 6:38 PM · Report this
All I know is it's fucking hot and melty in there.
Posted by MikeP on July 17, 2009 at 7:21 PM · Report this
So, The bodega, a staple of economically depressed area

a place where drugs are usualy sold under the counter. A place where hommies hang out to enjoy another unemployed day.

Leave it up to seattle to make this a new hip way to shop.....
Posted by TRY26 on July 18, 2009 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Thank you @2. It's not a fucking Bodega if it's in Seattle. And it should sell fruit and/or flowers out front.
Posted by SoHo Yuppie on July 18, 2009 at 6:05 PM · Report this
The bodega is a form of the micro economy and example of multipling wealth in the community by supporting local business. Its very basic algebra , known as a multiplier factor. I.E. the more money which you spend on local business, which support local business, the more wealth which you contain within the community. I suppose this is to much for your transplant hipster brains to handle though.
Posted by Brughle Q. on July 18, 2009 at 9:58 PM · Report this
The lower queen anne bodega is called the Manhattan Express, and supplied me with emergency needs including beer, condoms, vitamin water, and the occasional powerbar for many years.

It is owned by an Asian family who take turns managing the business and working the counter. They are incredibly hospitable and remember me even years after I left the neighborhood.

Support these places! And quit bickering, you people who comment on stranger articles to talk shit are definitely more lame than whoever wrote this article.
Posted by Not as snarky as you guys on July 19, 2009 at 10:31 AM · Report this
Call it what you want. But as Dante proved with his hot dog carts, there are a lot of hungry people on Ballard Ave after midnight. So he's put something together to give them what they want. That doesn't seem bad to me.

Posted by j-lon on July 19, 2009 at 11:36 AM · Report this
The beautiful young people (probably not Ballardites but who am I to judge) frolic and hook up, feasting on marshmallows and Spam doused in Thai hot sauce. I am stuck in my paradigm of crackers and cheese watching reruns of Law and Order. Although I live in Ballard scampering to the bodacious new bodega in my pajamas is not practical or appealing. If only the proprietors of Olsen's had tried appealing to the young drinkers maybe they would still be there.
Posted by capricorn on July 19, 2009 at 4:03 PM · Report this
i bet these haters are hungry when stumbling drunk down ballard ave late at night. but dante should tell them, "eat a dick, but not from my store."
Posted by The Bodeganater on July 19, 2009 at 4:41 PM · Report this
Belly 16
Egad. Slog trolls will shit on anything and everything, won't they? Once again, I'm asking myself why I even bother reading these comments.
Posted by Belly on July 19, 2009 at 10:20 PM · Report this
Belly 17
Egad. Slog trolls will shit on anything and everything, won't they? Once again, I'm asking myself why I even bother reading these comments.
Posted by Belly on July 19, 2009 at 10:20 PM · Report this
Man, they better get Tastykake butterscotch krimpets! YUM!
Posted by ChasRoberts on July 20, 2009 at 3:36 PM · Report this
freikja 19
#11: Thank you.
Posted by freikja on July 20, 2009 at 7:36 PM · Report this
Snacks! is HOT!

This we know! We recognize that it is super hot inside Ballard's new bodega, that's why we'd like to offer you a **COOL TREAT** while you shop at Snacks!

We have tasty Otter Pops and Soft Serve cones to offer you (yes, FREE!) while we work to get the store cooled down. We appreciate everyone's patience with the heat in our store. Please know that we're doing everything we're able to cool it down in there to make shopping at Snacks! more comfortable.
Posted by snacks! on July 22, 2009 at 11:58 AM · Report this
The people who criticized the writer of this article need to shhhhhut it, as Michael Scott would say. It was well-written, a smooth read. (Unlike some of the other wordy, over-analyzed crap on this site.)

Great article in my point of view.
Posted by SaraJean on July 22, 2009 at 9:06 PM · Report this
Props to dante for coming up from a hot dog cart and now to a store front. As long as you keep the dogs going and the snacks flowing you will be successful at that location. Not too many places to get a quick bite to eat around there late at night. Now all you need are late night Philly Steak Sandwhiches and you are golden.. Along with a tastycake for dessert of course.
Posted by Mookie206 on July 23, 2009 at 3:35 PM · Report this

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