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Bodega Owner Oliver Mak Talks Jagger, Collabs, and Streetwear

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What hasn't Bodega been able to accomplish in its short seven-year tenure? Nike's Tier Zero status after only two years, which means Bodega gets first dibs on Nike's rarest kicks—and just six other stores in the US have it. A killer collabs program featuring menswear giants like Mark McNairy, Converse, and Saucony. Celeb cameos (Bodega's the set, and third star, in Wale's single "Chillin" featuring Lady Gaga). Beyond that, the act of a hiding a boutique in an actual bodega (rice cookers and all) is hands-down one of the coolest concepts ever. Hype? Nah, this place has enough creativity and die-hards to outlive most Newbury Street joints.—Heather C. White

If you could walk a mile in anyone's shoes, who would it be and what shoes would they be wearing?
I would love to be Mick Jagger in 1978. They toured that summer for the Some Girls album that had a proto-disco song "Miss You" as well as "Beast of Burden." Probably would be barefoot during the performance but afterward he'd probably be wearing some broken in Trickers. 1978 is a magical year for funk records too.

How did Bodega get its start?
I was DJing, working on a non-profit and doing freelance when I met my partner Jay at a funky marketing office we worked at. We started kicking around ideas in early 2000s when I met Dan through the Floorlords B-Boy crew. The three of us united to build the store and create a design agency.

What's your favorite item in store right now?
I love the accessories by George Frost, the Mark McNairy x Bodega collection, and the recent Saucony collection Bodega designed.

Talk about your early collabs. Which ones do you remember most vividly?
Our first collab was a series of jackets with Dr. Romanelli. We sent him a bunch of vintage Nike jackets and he cut them into a new series of jackets. I remember unpacking them and being over the moon with excitement. We had them right around opening and we were especially proud of our starting lineup of product.

What are the five kicks every sneakerhead should own?
Dig the classics: Jordan 1s & 3s, Vans Eras, Converse Chuck Taylors, Adidas ZX 8000s.

With all of the recent competition in Boston—including CNCPTS, New Balance, and Ball & Buck—how have you been able to stay relevant? Especially in an area which may not have as much foot traffic.
We built the shop hidden in another store and never advertised. We always relied on really strong product to bring a targeted consumer in and that has paid off. At this point, Bodega is a must-see destination for such a wide range of people that we don't have to worry about foot traffic. Exclusive product from trusted partners, projects we design, combined with good buying keeps us a step ahead. Much respect to everyone else in the Boston fashion scene. Having other rad spots in town is a huge benefit for everyone.

How do you think sneaker culture and streetwear in general has evolved in Boston?
Men's fashion changed a lot since we opened doors in 2006. There was a peak of streetwear and sneakerhead culture in '08 which ended with the "death of streetwear" later that same year. Media exposure and mass approval made the inherently underground culture fall back on itself and search for its roots. That brought in a great interest in heritage brands, which everyone is enjoying today. There used to be more hype sneaker releases with people queuing up for days to get some limited trainers. That still happens but it's more rare.

Sneakers seem to be in good state of equilibrium with just the right amount of retros, exclusives and new classics on the scene. As the consumer grows, we're seeing sneakers influence brown shoe business as well. Check the Cole Haan Lunars, Yuketens and Mark McNairy's footwear—the street aesthetics applied to traditional men's classics keeps it funky as we trade our hoodies and skateboards in for oxford shirts and cruiser bikes.

What's next?
It never ends! Bodega is going into our eighth year of business and we're looking forward to the fall collection of our own line of apparel, designing more sneakers, more art shows at our Fourth Wall Project gallery in Fenway, and expanding our web shop.

· Analyst Weighs In on How the Bombing Will Affect Retail [Racked Boston]
· Boston's 38 Essential Shopping Experiences, April 2013 [Racked Boston]
· Bodega [Official Site]

Bodega

15 East Ohio Street, , IL 60611 (312) 894-0945 Visit Website