Survey No. 7: Shopping in the Bronx

Bathgate Avenue, Fordham Road, the local schmata store...boy did we know how to shop! Growing up in the Bronx was a testament to the resourcefulness of the financially challanged, to use some nineties terminology. This survey examined where and how we shopped in the Bronx. We received a very spirited response on this topic, and just about everyone had a special shopping memory to share. The number of unique, usable responses (in only 7 days) was 123. Thanks to all who participated.

Which of the following did you shop for in your immediate neighborhood?
(Multiple responses were allowed, so the sum of percentages will exceed 100)

Total ResponsesPercentage
Books and Magazines7661%
Groceries (Fresh)11694%
Groceries (Packaged)11694%
Records (Music)4436%

Here are some of the local "others":

Which of the following did you shop for in a specialty "shopping area" of the Bronx?
(Multiple responses were allowed, so the sum of percentages will exceed 100)

Total ResponsesPercentage
Books and Magazines2520%
Groceries (Fresh)1311%
Groceries (Packaged)65%
Records (Music)69%56%

Here are some of the specialty area "others":

(By the way, not a single response mentioned liquor stores. -Ed.)

Was your block regularly visited by truck-based vendors?

Total ResponsesPercentage
Don't Know1411%

In your opinion, what area of the Bronx offered the best shopping opportunities?

"How could it be anything other than Fordham Road from Webster to Jerome?" seems to sum up the barrage of responses touting that area as the best of the Bronx. 92 responses mentioned it. Here are some of the other areas that were mentioned as favorites:

Briefly share one or two reasons that you feel made shopping in the Bronx unique.

Many responses shared a common thread: everything you needed was there, and you didn't need a car. Whether they spoke of Fordham Road or Allerton Avenue or Third Avenue under the El, most people also mentioned the friendliness of the salespeople, the cleanliness of the stores, and the relative safety of the streets. Here are some other comments:

How do you feel about the following statement:
There were no "upscale" shopping areas in the Bronx because there were no "upscale" people.

Total ResponsesPercentage
Totally agree87%
Not sure1815%
Totally Disagree2823%

If you had a time machine, what one store would you "give anything" to revisit today? Why?

Considering the popularity of Fordham Road, it's not surprising that Alexander's was the choice of more than one quarter of all the responses. 29 people viewed it as the place they'd love to revisit, whether on Fordham Road or Third Avenue. However, gastronomic sentimentality won out over the bargain racks: 33 people mentioned small, local delis or appetizer stores as their wishful destination. Amazingly, almost all of these were unique - only one was named twice (see below). Here is a list of all the stores that were mentioned in at least 2 responses (in no particular order):

(Jahn's was mentioned twice, but it was a restaurant, not a store.)

Since leaving the Bronx, have you gone back specifically to shop there?

Total ResponsesPercentage

Considering all aspects of the shopping experience, how would you compare today's shopping malls with the neighborhood shopping areas you grew up with?

Total ResponsesPercentage
Malls are better1815%
Malls are worse6150%
They're about the same32%
Malls are better in some ways,
worse in others
Not sure11%

"Uptown It's Alexanders", perched atop the crown of the most popular shopping location in the Bronx, will forever remain in the memories of those who walked Fordham Hill, stopping for an Orange Julius, or for a sundae at Krum's, or picking up the latest hit at Spinning Disc. And yet, for as popular as that area was, we all share fond memories of the local candy store, the bakery, the mom-and-pop grocery that was only a short stroll from our building's stoop. If we didn't get our Keds® at one of the myriad shoe stores on Fordham or Third Avenue or in Westchester Square, then it was at that little local store where the salesman knew our name. Perhaps like any city, the Bronx was a collection of little villages, each with its own shopping area catering to the needs of the locals.

In a recent letter, Congressman Serrano of the Bronx described how much the Bronx is still the same, with a more diversified ethnic sampling among the neighborhood stores. Having been to Fordham Road recently, I can confirm this: it's still a thriving, bustling district and a shopper's "paradise". Alexander's may be gone, along with many other old landmarks, but there are many good shops that have taken their place. There are also many street vendors along 188th Street, and a carnival atmosphere pervades the area on sunny, warm days. Viva la Bronx!

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Chappaqua, N.Y., USA