A shelf covered with hanging bags of candy.
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Hoping to create an “authentic New York Bodega”, Bodega Bros opened Saturday on North University Avenue and is excited to engage with the University community. The bodega’s operating hours are currently 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. but hope to eventually expand their hours to 24/7 to emulate the NYC essentials corner store.

Esam Almulaiki, owner of Bodega Bros, told The Michigan Daily that customers at his New York locations inspired him to open a store in Ann Arbor.

“We have locations in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, and we always see Michigan gear out there,” Almulaiki said. “(The customers) kept telling us, ‘You guys should have one in Ann Arbor’ … and we took a leap of faith, and that’s why we’re here today.”

The bodega houses a deli and convenience store items such as snacks, drinks and groceries. Though the menu features a variety of sandwiches, omelets and smoothies, Almulaiki said they can make anything on or off the menu as long as they have the ingredients. 

“In the deli, we can make anything your heart desires,” Almulaiki said. “What you see on the menu is not (it). If you want something that’s not on the menu, you let the guy know (and) he can cook it for you.”

Almulaiki grew up in Hamtramck, Mich. before moving to New York City after high school to live with his extended family. His family owned what Almulaiki called “old-school bodegas,” where he said he was able to meet and create a community with people from different cultures. Almulaiki said he hopes his bodega will bring the same sense of community to customers in Ann Arbor as it does in New York. 

“In New York, we have the community vibe,” Almulaiki said. “We have (regulars) that walk in and we know what they want before they even make it to the deli case … We’re trying to remember the faces of the people that have been in here. This is our third day so far, and we already know what they want.”

The bodega is located near the Diag, making it easy for students to gather in the space or get a hot meal. Ann Arbor resident Tonya Huffman told The Daily she’s excited about the bodega opening because it gives U-M students more options close to campus to get fresh groceries or whatever else they need. 

“It’s great because the students I know need something closer than Kroger … to come get just little things for the dorm,” Huffman said. “The selection that they have is all sorts of different stuff, so I think that it’s different than what we (already) have here on State Street.”

LSA sophomore Elicia Chatman told The Daily they appreciate the bodega because it opens up their food options.

“I think it’ll be a comfortable space for people to come and shop, especially if they’re from different backgrounds and (if) they’re used to city life,” Chatman said. “… I think this is very resourceful because I can have food that’s not in the dining hall.”

As an out-of-state University of Michigan student from New York, LSA junior Niko Papaioannou told The Daily he feels the bodega brings a touch of his home to campus.

“I’m from the New York City tri-state area, so my whole life … growing up, every time I’d go to lunch, I’d go to a bodega,” Papaioannou said. “Now that they have one in Ann Arbor, it’s very cool … Walking in just feels kind of like home.”

Daily Staff Reporter Rebecca Lewis can be reached at rebeccl@umich.edu and Daily News Contributor Alexa Kessler can be reached at alexakes@umich.edu.