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Micro-mart, big ambitions

The Goods Bodega is an oasis in a Tulsa food desert

Greg Bollinger

September’s First Friday saw the grand opening of The Goods Bodega, located only a block away from Guthrie Green in the newly-renamed Tulsa Arts District. The micro-mart sets itself apart with unique items prepared in-store, like dips and cold sandwiches. On weekdays they serve grilled cheese sandwiches from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. But most importantly, the Bodega fills a need in the area, which is classified as a food desert for its lack of available nutritious foods.

Owner Shawn Zenthoefer explained that even though the district—with its many restaurants—hardly looks like it’s in need of more food, it was missing an easily accessible grocery store.

“There’s a Dollar General a couple miles from here, and the closest Walgreens is in Sand Springs,” Zenthoefer said. “A lot of the people in this area make a trip to the nearest Braum’s when they need their groceries.”  

“Obviously we can’t be the solution to the food crisis, but we can be one small part of that solution.”

Zenthoefer is no stranger to the fight against food deserts. She was a co-owner of the shortly-lived Folks Urban Market in 2014. “This time I intentionally went into the business alone, to keep it simple,” she said. Other than Zenthoefer, the store is staffed by just four employees.

She chose “bodega” for the name so as not to appear to be competing with Reasor’s or other large grocery companies. The name is Spanish, meaning warehouse or cellar. The store’s full name represents a positive mentality and high-quality goods.

The variety of items offered includes MSG-free and organic foods, fruits and vegetables, and things like crab bisque, chocolate-covered espresso beans, stuffed olives, cheese, fruit cups, Oklahoma-made pasta sauce, beer, and tonic water.

Besides the selection, the most distinct part of the store is the coziness of its layout and presentation. The food is limited to one room and the cashier has plenty of space behind the counter to prepare orders. The bodega is bright and pretty—looking more like a cafe than a convenience store, but with the same shortage of seats.

Currently, the biggest hurdle Zenthoefer faces is sourcing food, made especially difficult because of The Goods Bodega’s small size. Many of the items in the store are packaged in-house so they can be bought in bulk for lower prices. Despite partnering with several distributors and local vendors for items like bread, coffee, and eggs, the Bodega still lacks buying power for many of the products Zenthoefer knows she must offer. This means the Bodega doesn’t always make a profit on items, and prices aren’t always as cheap as customers might hope. A framed sign in the store mentions and explains this under its heading: “Where’s the cheap stuff?” 

The headline below it asks, “Why?” 

The answer: “For Tulsa … the city we choose to live in and love.”

“The store is a project for Tulsa,” Zenthoefer said. “It’s not something I’m trying to retire off of or get rich from. I’m doing it because I felt that it was needed.”

How to do taco night at The Goods Bodega on a $20 budget:

  • One pound of Grassroots Ranch chicken ($5.99)
  • Eight traditional flour wraps from La Tortilla Factory ($2.99)
  • One and a half-cup house-packaged container of Cilantro sauce ($2.85)
  • Shredded Colby Jack cheese ($1.75)
  • One organic red bell pepper ($1.68)
  • One red onion ($.99)
  • One Roma tomato ($.75)
  • House packaged cup of cumin-spice ($.99)

Total: $17.99 before tax

This meal fed three people. Most sizable chip bags in the store were $4, and so were neglected to meet the budget. Hopefully you’ve got some lying around—we did. Less than three people might fare better (cheaper) at a restaurant, but you won’t have made it yourself.

The Goods Bodega
107 M.L.K. Jr. Blvd.
11a.m. to 7p.m. Mon.–Sun.

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