Editor Learns Pitfalls of Convenience Store Ownership

NEW YORK -- Convenience stores need to run like a well-oiled machine, but one New York editor turned convenience store owner found out that is easier said than done.

As reported in the New York Post, Ben Ryder Howe was a senior editor for The Paris Review facing the feeling of burning out when he decided to take his wife’s advice and buy a bodega in Brooklyn. His Korean-American wife, Gab, wanted to open a store as a gift for her parents so Howe, who traces his ancestors back to the Mayflower, took the plunge in 2001 and opened a store in Boerum Hill -- a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. As he explained in his memoir, the store measured only “17 paces front to back and less than seven across” and smelled of “kitty litter, leaky air fresheners, pastrami, wood root and Freon.”

During his stint as a bodega owner (a staple of New York City’s retail landscape), Howe met numerous characters, from lottery customers (to whom he gave nicknames such as “The Mumbler” and “The Screamer”) to one customer who accused him of age profiling when he was carded for a pack of cigarettes, according to the New York Post.

Howe also learned the downside of owning a retail store -- the hours of boredom, the threat of robberies and the inability to find good employees. He also lived in fear of city agencies, the newspaper reported. Undercover police were always watching to see if he was selling beer at illegal hours or selling cigarettes to minors. Also, inspectors were always on the lookout for health violations.

Howe’s turn as a store owner did not last long and neither did his role as senior editor of The Paris Review. He left the publication and sold the deli in 2003. “The Paris Review is like a deli: It’s a throwback, an institution that doesn’t quite fit in the modern world. It’s not big or corporate. It doesn’t have a lot of swagger or muscle,” the New York Post quoted him as saying.


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