Follow Friday: Bodega
For the uninitiated, Bodega might be one of the city’s best kept secrets. The storefront mimics that of any other anonymous convenience store located just off Mass. Ave But for legions of seasoned sneakerheads and streetwear devotees, the Back Bay store is famous for its exclusive products and distinctive style. And they have over 100,000 Instagram followers to prove it.
We caught up with the store’s team members that deal with all things digital: Oliver Mak, Bodega’s cofounder, and Tommy Boudreau and Andrew White, two brains behind the store’s social media and marketing initiatives. Here, they talk about their increased focus on editorial fashion shoots, social media style, and their overall aesthetic.
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How many social media profiles does Bodega have, and who is the primary manager?
Andrew White: So all together we have three: Twitter, Instagram, and we have a Tumblr.
Oliver Mak: And Facebook.
White: And Facebook! So we have four. We each manage all of them together.
Which is the must-follow?
White: Instagram is our leading profile. Everything from Instagram kind of trickles down to the other platforms.
Why is that?
White: We want it that way. We’ve worked at making it a point to focus on Instagram. I feel like a lot of the stuff we do is visually-driven, it’s the best way to market our product, and get people excited about certain things we have coming in [the store].
What do you think your shoppers or audience expect from the store’s social media or web presence?
Tommy Boudreau: I think they expect us to have the top-tier product that we’re so widely known for having. They hold us accountable for release dates and hyped-up products—that’s very important. We have a Tier 0 Nike account, so we get really exclusive products that not everyone else gets. I think that’s one of the things we’re held accountable for.
White: People depend on us to learn a little bit about different brands that we introduce to the market—so product knowledge. And overall, how to wear stuff, how to make things look good. We put a lot of effort into getting everything photographed and styled the way we think speaks to our customer and speaks to our own personal style. A picture of just a sneaker could be one thing, but when you pair the sneaker with a pair of pants or an outfit or something like that, people really tend to gravitate towards that more.
Mak: We’ve shifted to more of a focus on editorial fashion shoots instead of just augmented product photography.
Who conceptualizes the editorial shoots, and how does that work?
Boudreau: It’s usually a melting pot of everyone, kind of everyone’s own thoughts. The last thing we did was an editorial for Fred Perry [in April]. We all put our heads together and came up with a general idea for what we wanted to do. It’s not usually one person every single time. We all spitball and see what we all like the most.
Bodega is a store for seasoned sneakerheads, or at least people that are really into this streetwear culture. Is there ever a concern that you’re speaking too much to insiders online? Or is that the whole point?
White: I wouldn’t say that’s the whole point. We do have customers that would be considered ‘insiders,’ but [we] try to explain certain elements of products that a newcomer might not understand. By posting [a photo] we try to include a little bit of the history to give people a better idea of why a product might be so sought after at this point. We try to appeal to both the insiders and the newcomers, as far as the sneakers go.
In line with that, is there a reason why you don’t curate content a lot? Perhaps to share music you’re listening to, for example. Is that something you’re interested in?
White: We actually need to be doing more of that, I think. That’s kind of been an ongoing discussion. We need to not only use the platforms to sell the product, but to give people an idea of our personal tastes and tastes as a store. We all have different interests. Everyone that works here is into a different sort of thing, so we’ve had that discussion about working that into our social media programming more, but we haven’t done a good job.
Mak: We did do one big project from Asics, which was a mixtape that Durkin put together for us. We did a lot more of that type of programming through our gallery space up until April 2014. Social media-wise, it’s something haven’t really capitalized on, as far as where our source material is or what our influences are.
A large part of the store’s identity is being something that’s hidden in plain sight. Is that something that you try to translate into your online identity?
Mak: Much like the physical location, we’re non-advertised, and we rely on editorial posts from fashion sites that drive traffic. If you know about or are looking for a particular product that’s special, you’ll find it through us. If you’re just walking through the city in a daze you might not find us.
What three words would you use to describe Bodega’s online aesthetic?
Boudreau: I want to say ‘fresh.’ Does that speak to you guys? Or is that weak?
White: Eh, you’ve got something better. Let me think… I would say ‘authentic.’
White: Oliver, you might need another one.
Mak: ‘Relevant, authentic, outstanding, credible, genius.’ Tommy, are any of these resonating with you at all?
Boudreau: ‘Geniuse’ for sure! ‘Outstanding’ is cool. Is that cocky?
Mak: That’s super cocky, it’s horrible! Humble?
Boudreau: ‘Relevant’ and ‘authentic’ are perfect. I think you should just use two.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and length.