Grocery apps are trying to shed the ‘crackhouse’ reputation of NYC hubs

Grocery delivery apps seek to satisfy angry neighbors and New York City Council members by renaming their potentially illegal barebones and delivery centers as high-tech outlets open to the public.

While the legion of apps – including Gopuff, Getir, Gorillas and Jokr – have been launched across the five boroughs over the past year, they have eaten up space for dark stores that were previously occupied by delicatessens and boutiques, transforming the spaces into “dark”. stores” that house groceries and are closed to the public.

Some local politicians have accused the apps of violating zoning laws by running warehouses off properties zoned for retail, while local residents have complained about constant e-bike traffic, as well as workers loitering and smoking. outside delivery centers at any time of the day.

“Grocery fast delivery companies have realized that a dark store is nothing more than a modern version of a crackhouse,” Brittain Ladd, a retail consultant who works with businesses, told The Post. fast delivery companies. “They had the awful window covering, people couldn’t get in if they weren’t working there. It attracted people hanging out and there were a number of noise and traffic complaints.

In some cases, The Post observed the floors of delivery centers littered with trash. In others, delivery people were seen riding e-bikes and scooters at blazing speeds on city sidewalks. Even the cleanest and most organized hubs seem to feature fluorescent lighting and threadbare decor.

“Grocery fast delivery companies have come to realize that a dark store is nothing more than the modern version of a crackhouse,” retail consultant Brittain Ladd told the Post.
William Farrington
Brooklyn Gorillas
Dark stores such as this Gorillas location in Brooklyn are now open for in-person shopping.
Gabriella Bass

But now, in an apparent effort to satisfy both zoning laws and irate neighbors, many delivery apps, including Getir, Gopuff and Gorillas, have started opening their stores to walk-in customers.

Getir delivery centers across the city added “Welcome walk-in” signs to their windows in March. Gorillas hubs also removed the film from their windows and added “pick up in store!” signs in their stores in March, as The Post first reported. GoPuff told the Post that its stores have always welcomed walk-in customers, but some of its stores hadn’t posted “walk-in” hours until recently. Jokr did not respond to a request for comment on whether it accepts walk-in tours or plans to add them.

Critics counter that startups’ in-store pickup signs are little more than an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of concerned city council members like Gale Brewer and Christopher Marte, who have both urged city agencies to investigate. if the apps violate zoning laws.

Even the cleanest delivery centers have fluorescent lighting and stripped-down decor.
Gabriella Bass

This idea is reinforced by the fact that the Getir, Gorillas and GoPuff apps do not appear to give users the option to select in-store pickup, but only offer delivery.

“While currently customers can enter and place orders for in-store pickup, we recognize that the process is not as straightforward as we would like,” Getir founder Nazim Salur told The Post. . “We are always working to improve our store operations, including improving the store experience. We expect these changes to be completed in the near future.

“We’re here for the long haul and look forward to working with city officials and community leaders as we create good jobs across New York City and provide time-saving service that New Yorkers have already started adopting,” added Salur.

The gorillas declined to comment. Jokr did not respond to requests for comment.

Many stores open to the public are also flouting city rules requiring stores to accept cash and include clearly labeled prices on all items, among other regulations, according to council member Brewer.

“You have to have labels on cereal,” Brewer told the Post. “It’s the law.”

Gopuff has also opened some locations for in-person shopping in what critics say is an effort to dodge city zoning laws.
William Farrington
Dark shops
Neighbors have complained about the e-bike traffic.
Gabriella Bass

Ladd, the retail consultant, said delivery apps should strive to make their stores “as welcoming as possible” in a bid to both appease the city council and satisfy neighbors, who might then start thinking of stores as neighborhood establishments rather than gloomy ones. horrors.

“What I said to Getir and what I said to Gorillas is that you have to change the perception of fast grocery delivery from something mysterious to something inviting,” said Ladd.

But Ladd added that many startups are reluctant to let strangers into their stores because they “mistakenly believe that they have to keep what they do in those stores a secret.”

“I told them all: none of you have a competitive advantage in this area,” he said. “You all do the same thing.”

Fridge No More and Buyk, two other fast delivery startups that folded in March, as reported exclusively by The Post, did not have signs welcoming customers to their stores.