By Ali Bauman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Small business owners in New York City fear thousands of bodegas could close in the coming months due to the emergence of new grocery delivery apps.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman takes a look at how these apps work and how bodegas are fighting to stay open.

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Francisco Marte has been running his Bronx bodega on the corner of 205th Street for two decades.

“We’re from the community. We’ve been serving the community in the worst times, so we deserve to be protected,” Marte said.

Marte represents 2,000 bodegas across the city as founder of the Bodega and Small Business Association.

After surviving the pandemic, he said many of mom-and-pop delis are now being pummeled by fast-growing delivery apps, promising groceries at your door in 15 minutes.

Marte said he fears the apps will do to delis what rideshares have done to yellow cabs.

“We cannot compete with them,” Marte said.

The apps operate out of fulfillment centers around the city, that are mostly closed to the public.

Among them is “Gorillas,” which has opened 13 locations in four boroughs over the last six months.

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“We’re hyper-focused on New York at the moment,” Gorillas’ Adam Wacenske said.

When told bodega workers in the city are worried about companies like his running them out of business, Wacenske said, “I think we’re more akin to a medium-size grocery store than a bodega.”

“They’re definitely disruptors. They’re market disruptors,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said.

Brewer wrote to several city agencies last month, pressing them to regulate the new businesses.

“Does the zoning allow for this particular type of warehouse in a retail area? If they’re not legal they must be evicted and the city must come in and say you’re not welcome here,” Brewer said.

The Department of Buildings told CBS2 because these quick-service fulfillment centers are a new type of business in the city, they’re not even specifically mentioned in the city’s existing zoning regulations.

The agency also said its working “to explore the appropriate zoning districts for these types of establishments.”

In the meantime, bodega owners are asking City Hall to help them adopt this kind of delivery technology.

“We need that type of funding to help us so we can access the technologies,” Marte said.

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They hope they can compete to keep their doors open.

Ali Bauman