Bellafante details the issues related to New York’s mini-warehouses for instant delivery, also known as dark stores. These mini-warehouses are utilized by companies like Gorillas and GoPuff that are basically small grocery and convenience stores. The dark stores are getting away with having mini-warehouses outside of the manufacturing zone as they are stores in a sense. Most of these don’t allow people to browse or come in, and if they do, they limit access with additional steps and limited hours.
They’re referenced as “dark stores” as they typically cover their windows in advertisements to help block viewing the inside. Bellafante reviews the regulation enforcements used with grocery stores, bodegas, and supermarkets and stresses how dark stores operate in a sort of nether space. This allows them to slip through the cracks especially considering people aren’t able to view the indoors a lot of the time. She notes that on her visit to Gorillas, where she was turned away from browsing without first placing an order online, there were motorcycles being stored inside which is a fire hazard.
Dark stores are comparable to supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, and bodegas in the products they offer but different in the services they provide. New York is one of the most walkable cities in the United States making it so that you can walk to a bodega for the items you need in the same amount of time as you can pay more to have it delivered to you.
With the big boom of at home delivery from COVID-19, companies like GoPuff and Gorillas started popping up everywhere. While these small warehouses are useful in some areas, New York City is telling a different story. Since NYC is rated so highly on public transport and walkability, most of their population doesn’t have a need for these dark stores after lockdown ended. Now, they’re bending the rules to take up space in storefronts that could otherwise be genuine stores for people to go into. With them not fully being considered a warehouse and likewise as a market, they fall through the cracks of regulations which can also be harmful. This shows how grocery delivery expansion could be a nuisance in certain places and if not actually following city regulations. The positive reaction to the boom of grocery delivery is not universal.
Publisher: The New York Times
Author: Ginia Bellafante
Date: July 22, 2022