NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — During a time of need, a big company is stepping up to help save a small Harlem bodega, and the grateful owner says it’s a sign she might just make it.
“My family said, ‘Just open a restaurant.’ I said no,” Excenia Mette told CBS2’s Cory James.
After moving to New York City more than three decades ago, Mette finally took the advice of her family, opening a bodega in Harlem in 2018.
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“It hasn’t really been a Black-owned bodega in the city since the 1980s,” she said.
Excenia Mette opened her own bodega in Harlem in 2018. (Credit: CBS2)
Her specialty is serving soul food.
“That alone has helped my doors stay open,” she said.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It’s been very hard to make the rent,” Mette said. “It’s been really, really, really challenging.”
So challenging she decided one night to make a GoFundMe account to help save her deli. She created it with hope but relied heavily on her faith.
“I prayed that night, ‘Give me a sign,'” Mette said.
Days later, she says she got an unexpected call from Arizona Beverages.
The company last year featured her in its magazine focusing on bodega culture.
When they caught wind of her GoFundMe page, Arizona executives decided to show support by offering to match up to $25,000 in donations raised.
Arizona Beverages offered to help Excenia Mette during the pandemic after featuring her bodega in a magazine in 2019. (Credit: CBS2)
“When I got that phone call from Arizona … I cried. I literally cried,” Mette said. “And that was my sign.”
Lloyd Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, says so far 38% of small businesses in the community have already closed its doors for good.
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“An excess of 50% of them will never reopen their doors again,” Williams said. “We’re very happy that Arizona teas has stepped up to do this.”
So are Mette’s customers.
“I hope we can save this bodega,” customer Wuan Smith said.
“The service is good,” customer Bernadette Kouame said.
Mette is hoping the support from Arizona Beverages along with the community will help her save her bodega, a business she says is a dream come true.
To donate to Mette’s GoFundMe, visit gofundme.com/f/save-mommazee039s-black-owned-deli-in-nyc.
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