The sign at 2901 N. Walker Ave. says “Samir Groceries.” The sign at 3020 N. Walker Ave. says “Flora Bodega.”
We’ll let you decide which one is the grocer and which is the bodega. You can buy beer and wine at both, but cigarettes at only one and fresh greens only at the other.
Flora Bodega is the newer kid on the block but is serving needs in different ways than Samir.
“I always wanted a free fridge,” co-owner Angela Renee Chase said.
More about that later. But, for now, let’s talk about the bodega itself.
You’d be hard-pressed not to be able to make one of your best meals from only ingredients gleaned from the store.
Local and fresh greens, dairy, meat, grains, toppings and condiments can all be found among the shelves of the modest but rapidly-expanding Flora Bodega. The outline of the state marks the spot for Oklahoma products, of which there are many.
Flora Bodega officially opened for business at its current location on the north end of the Paseo District on April 1. But it had been operating for the six months prior as a coordination hub for online orders and grocery pickups due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They previously worked as owners of the Paseo Farmers Market at SixTwelve at the corner of NW 29th Street and Lee Avenue.
Chase, Jenna Moore, Megan Sisco and Thanh Tran opened the store, with Sisco stepping away from co-ownership since its opening.
“Me, Megan, Jenna and Thanh, we’re like, ‘Let’s just turn this thing into a worker co-operative.’ If you’re doing the work, then you should probably be the owner of it. If you’re making it run,” Chase said.
"It feels October 1st, October 2nd, I think that was the first day of pickup for online orders again, so we basically like opened to maintain the online orders that we had done as a pop-up in the middle of the pandemic once we lost our outdoor space. ... So it was the beginning of October and we’re like, ‘We’re here!’ but literally we had almost nothing on the shelf. It was like folding tables. We still kept maintaining the online store and then just kept working on the space simultaneously,” she said.
Imagine a farmers market with heating and air-conditioning that’s open seven days a week with a little artistic flair and you have an idea of what Flora Bodega looks like in late September. That’s 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with an early start at 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
But those hours should hopefully expand as business grows.
“I open the store a lot of time early anyways on Sundays. I just go ahead and show up early and do it so that I would say in my idealistic world, yes,” Chase said.
She’s eyeing 7 p.m. on the later end but would like to first focus efforts on opening earlier on other days moving forward.
Chase spent several years working at and developing Forward Foods before they closed their doors on Western Avenue. She hopes to bring the energy and expertise to Flora Bodega that larger grocers find hard to replicate.
“There’s such a gap in people having like specialty food skills, because a lot of people just work at places and they are on like maybe a fad diet or something, they don’t actually know that much about food products and true seasonality,” she said.
Flora Bodega also has their system set up to allow use of Access Oklahoma cards.
“We do EBT food stamps and we do the double-up, so anybody that’s on food stamps, they can do it once a day if they want to. They get matched up to $20 free every single day in produce,” Chase said.
They also made sure the Flora Bodega spot would have space for that free fridge Chase mentioned earlier.
“We looked at other locations and then we’re always like, ‘Where will we put the free fridge?’ ... So then, Tamar [Cohen-Davidyan], she lives on Walker, she launched one ... So we basically joined forces and she moved it from her house down the street to ours. The big drops during the week are usually Sunday night. Wednesday night is one. Sometimes, if there’s enough food they do like this weekend with a Saturday night and Wednesday and Sunday night drop,” she said.
[Trader Joe’s] sends an insane amount of waste food that’s still good, perfectly good. The rules are not to put rotten bad food in there. Be respectful to people. There’s kind of a big following. I don’t have to promote it too much unless I come out there and I’m like, ‘Okay, this food has been sitting, people don’t even know it’s here. Come get it. So we’ll flag. But on the Sunday nights, especially the nights that people know to come pick up, they’ll wait for hours in front of the store,” Chase said.
On the other end, Chase also makes cakes with local, organic ingredients (a full two-layer cake as pictured on the cover of this issue is $70 and maybe ordered through her site at angelerenee- chase.com).
If the spirit of the spot hasn’t been captured by now, there’s also an endcap displaying a Flora Bodega T-shirt with a design by artist Melissa Jacobs (@pityparty on Instagram).
For more information about Flora Bodega and/or the Paseo Farmers Market, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or text/call 405.531.0708.