In downtown Asheville, residents and visitors can take their pick of cuisines, bakeries, coffee shops, boutiques, bookstores, outdoor gear purveyors, artisan pottery galleries and breweries, all within walking distance of home, hotel or Airbnb.
But good luck finding a box of ibuprofen for the morning after, a Band-Aid should you stumble on Asheville’s mean streets, a cheap rain poncho for an afternoon deluge, a roll of paper towels, a flat-head screwdriver, insect repellent, laundry detergent, batteries or a light bulb.
Charlie Hodge — the entrepreneur who put his avant-garde-meets-retro stamp on the food and beverage scene with Sovereign Remedies, Ole Shakey’s (soon to reopen as The Getaway) and 2019’s Asheville Beauty Academy — may seem an unlikely purveyor of lowbrow essentials, but when the rent is due, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
“I never thought I’d be selling candy bars,” Hodge admits with a laugh. Yet PayDays and KitKats are among the hundreds of sundries for sale in Hodge’s newest enterprise, Bodega on Broadway. The long, narrow storefront at 28 Broadway was the home of his Beauty Academy nightclub until bars and restaurants shut down in March. In July, Hodge transformed the space into a seven-days-a-week downtown market modeled after the bodegas ubiquitous in New York City’s Spanish-speaking neighborhoods.
“I had this big space with big rent and no idea when bars will be allowed to reopen,” he explains. “The Lexington Corner Market was a place people loved, but it closed when the lease ended. We really felt like there was a need downtown for something like that.”
He had a trial run for the concept in the pop-up bodega he staged at Sovereign while it was closed, then supersized the inventory for Bodega on Broadway, from nuts and bolts to wine and candles. Sovereign chef Bert Sheffield, who oversees the cured meat program at Hodge’s commissary kitchen, The Make Space, is contributing charcuterie products. And Terri Terrell, former managing director at HomeGrown, has joined the culinary team. “I love being part of this,” she says. “What a brilliant mind Charlie is and learning new things from chef [Sheffield] is so fun.”
Terrell works from The Make Space to produce cold items such as sandwiches, spreads and salads for the grab-and-go case, as well as hot breakfast biscuit sandwiches with local sausage and house-cured bacon, and vegetarian and vegan burritos. Sunil Patel of Patchwork Alliance and Patchwork Urban Farms provides fresh produce, which is sold alongside local eggs, cheese and dairy. Ultimate Ice Cream products are coming soon to the freezer case as well as frozen samosas by Patel.
Once permitting is complete, the former stage will be turned into the Disco Deli, which Terrell says will provide plenty of sandwich options for all types of diets. Hodge envisions partnering with local chefs and makers for a rotating spotlight of their signature items with a portion of sales going to the new nonprofit Asheville Strong. “We want to offer these iconic little flavors of Asheville,” he says, “and help our great locals and independents get through this.”
Bodega on Broadway is open 8 a.m.-11 p.m. daily at 28 Broadway.