By Sarah Hamaker
After living and working in downtown Omaha, Nebraska, for several years, Nate Flick and David Kerr noticed the lack of grab-and-go convenience in the historic district. “It was a food and grocery desert down here,” Flick said. “While there were plenty of restaurants, bars and apartment buildings, there wasn’t anything in the way of groceries or quick to-go food options.”
That epiphany led to Flick and Kerr opening the Godega Market in February. “It’s a play on the bodegas of bigger cities,” Flick said. “We’re a convenience store and coffee shop in the heart of downtown Omaha. We like to say we’re here for the customers’ everyday needs from sun up to sun down.”
“Being from the U.K. and now living in the U.S., I really missed corner shops,” Kerr said. “They are such a ubiquitous part of our culture, and now we have a literal corner shop on the main intersection of Omaha’s historic district.”
A NEIGHBORHOOD SHOP
The two owners focused much of their attention on getting the right product mix for their customers. They stock grab-and-go food, fresh coffee, craft beer, wine, liquor, ice cream, sweets, sodas, baked goods, household essentials and personal care items.
For now, the c-store’s prepared food is sourced from outside vendors, but recently, it acquired more space a block away with plans to open a commissary to supply to-go products. The breakfast menu features sausage and vegan breakfast sandwiches, mush oats and nondairy yogurt. On the lunch menu are wraps (chicken, falafel), salads (chicken, egg), subs and sandwiches. Snacks and sweets include dill pickle bites, peanut butter cups and Milk Bar cookies.
For made-to-order drinks, customers can choose among espressos, macchiatos, cortados and lattes, plus options like shots of syrup, espresso, Bailey’s or Jameson liquors. Teas are also available, as well as chai tea and matcha lattes. Godega serves beer on tap and wine by the glass in addition to a wide selection of cocktails, such as mimosas, spiked warm apple cider, Italian coffee breaks and Irish coffee.
“For a lot of the products we carry, it’s been trial and error,” Flick said. “We get feedback from our customers, and we ran Instagram polls before we opened our door to help gauge product interest from the area.”
With 1,200 square feet, “we really have to hit every little nook and use the space wisely,” he added. As much as possible, the store carries local products, such as baked goods from an Omaha baker and milk from a local farm. Godega stocks a lot of toiletries, given its nearness to hotels. In addition to its grab-and-go products sourced from local vendors, the store also does a brisk business in snack boxes and trail mixes.
A NIMBLE STORE
The owners strive to modernize the experience with customers by talking to them in person and through social media about store products and what they want Godega to carry. “We originally thought because there’s no grocery store in the downtown area that grocery items would be more of a fast-selling category, but it’s really been coffee and café items,” Flick said. “We have limited room for products, so we’ve become very selective and keep a close eye on what’s moving and what’s not. We consider ourselves to be very nimble when it comes to stock.”
For example, when Nebraska law changed to allow to-go cocktails, Godega tried the waters with two options. “It was insanely popular, and now we have seven different to-go cocktail options,” he said.
When a customer recommended a build-your-own six-pack of beer, they decided to try it. “It’s our second-fastest-selling item now,” Flick said. They installed an extra fridge with the single beers and seltzers available for the pick-six promo.
The Godega staff, whom Kerr and Flick train, greet customers with a smile. “We encourage the team to learn the regulars’ names to make a visit to our store seem more personable,” Flick said. A loyalty program tracked through Square improved the frequency of visits, and a focus on garnering positive reviews has helped residents and tourists find Godega online ahead of an in-person visit.
While Godega continues to evolve, Flick hopes customers who visit think of the store “as a younger, fresher version of your convenience store, a real neighborhood bodega.”
This article originally appeared in the Ideas 2 Go column of the December 2022 issue of NACS Magazine. Read the digital pdf version of the December issue.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer, NACS Magazine contributor and romantic suspense author based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahamakerfiction.com.