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Bodegas Rake It In With Bushwick Open Studios

By Meredith Hoffman | June 3, 2013 2:42pm | Updated on June 3, 2013 2:45pm
 Bushwick's bodegas sold out of cigarettes and beer and saw an increase in business overall during Bushwick Open Studios.
Bushwick Bodegas
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BUSHWICK — When he opened his new bodega on the edge of Maria Hernandez Park Friday, Ali Shuaebi hoped to make $500 the first 24 hours. But by the next day, he'd sold twice his goal.

"We were asking customers, 'Why are there so many people around?'" smiled Shuaebi, who's been frequenting the area the past several months to prepare his shop and to visit his brother's deli nearby. "It was amazing."

For Shuaebi and other bodega owners, the seventh annual Bushwick Open Studios brought an unexpected — and unprecedented — influx of revenue, even though some of the entrepreneurs never even knew the art festival was occurring.

"We've never gotten that much business...We sold out of cigarettes, got about 20 percent more business," said Damien Alsaidi, who owns a shop on Hart Street near the Dekalb L train station. "I didn't know why...Bushwick Open Studios? No, I don't know what that is."

Ramzy Mohammed, manager at Oasis Deli on Knickerbocker Avenue, said he kept track of revenues from the festival each year — and that he'd been shocked at the leap in sales this summer.

"We made about $4,000 more," he said of this weekend compared to the 2012 festival. "It was packed, I've never seen business increase like that."

He also saw more "new faces" instead of his typical regulars — and had to reach into his extra supply of beer and water, he said.

"We're open 24 hours a day, and it was busy the whole 24 hours," he said. "Everybody was making business."

But for more traditional sit-down restaurants that serve longtime Bushwick residents, the weekend was like any other.

"We had a normal crowd," said the manager of Mi Bella Dama, which serves Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisine down the street from Oasis Deli.

Still, bodega owner Shuaebi said he'd keep dreaming that every day would be like his first ones in business.

"I wish it was going to be like this always," he said with a smile.