When you walk into Golden Chance Bodega, you will see the word “Hotep” painted across the floor of the front entrance.
“It means ‘I come in peace, I come with love, I come with respect,’” store owner Michael Johnson said.
“It’s African, Egyptian. And this is an ankh. An ankh is the original cross, symbolizing everlasting life.”
The word “bodega” comes from the actual Spanish word for grocery store, but bodegas in East Coast cities have evolved into selling a wide variety of products from clothing to produce. Johnson’s 2,400-square-foot bodega is on the 300 block of Neal Street in Grass Valley where Ames Bookstore was located.
Johnson, 38, is originally from Philadelphia but grew up in Maryland. He says he aims to bring an East Coast style and swag to Grass Valley with a bodega that will have anything and everything. In building the bodega, Johnson said he has used influences from his childhood experiences and cultural roots. The walls of Johnson’s bodega are painted a bright gold, with Egyptian-influenced paintings spliced onto each wall.
“I’m half-Nigerian, so the house that is painted under the word ‘chance’ is an actual vacation house that, once my father was deceased, my mother moved me to, to have a better chance to raise me,” Johnson said. “So we’re sitting on a bench and we’re looking toward (Egypt), and he’s there teaching us the knowledge and the wisdom that is there, and as you can see there is gold pouring out of the building. That’s the golden in the chance.”
Johnson played football for the University of Maryland, College Park, but an ankle injury put an end to his football career, and he became a mortgage broker. Johnson says he first heard of Grass Valley from his mother’s friend who was originally from San Jose but retired in Nevada County. In January, Johnson moved to Nevada City and secured a lease for the bodega in April.
“I love the nature of this area,” Johnson said. “There’s opportunity up here, and the people are good. If you can give them what they like, or want or desire, and I’m a people person, so to me that comes easy.”
In the bodega, a pyramid-like fountain sits near a wood-panelled stage Johnson says will be used for local musicians, comedians and poets who want to express themselves creatively. The bodega will also accommodate local fashionistas.
“Everything from here back is going to be attire. From cowboy attire, to Rasta attire, to sports attire, to ladies attire. We’ll have Jordan’s, cowboy boots, everything,” Johnson said. “From sunglasses, you’ll have multiple things from hats, shirts, jeans, jewelry and the Miss Me Jeans that the locals here love. I’ll have Armani, I’ll have Gucci, I’ll have all the top of the line, from Tommy Hilfiger to Eddie Bauer.”
Johnson’s bodega will also sell an eclectic collection of DVDs and CDs that customers can watch while using the store’s tanning booth.
“We’re also going have seafood to go,” Johnson said. “We’ll have lobsters, fresh-caught fish that’s delivered every day from Maryland. We’ll have mussels, oysters, scallops and shrimp to go every day, along with Maryland blue steamed crab cakes, golden shrimp, golden crab cakes, golden chips, fries, popcorn, candy and bonbons, which is ice cream in a cup, shaved ice with a very nice flavor.”
Taking complete access to another level, the bodega will have a 24-hour front window where locals can order anything and everything in the store, at any time of the day.
“I’ll also have mopeds out front for rent, and a few sets of patio furniture where you can sit down and eat,” Johnson said. “I’ll have apps where you can order from your phone, or online, and I will have all-you-can-eat seafood, all-you-can-eat crab, at certain times where you can eat in the parking lot.”
The bodega also features furniture and art made by local residents and traveling kit supplies for tourists who need the bare essentials. Johnson says he is looking to hire five employees for the bodega, which will open in around two weeks.
“They can’t wait from what I’ve asked around,” Johnson said.
“You can’t have good without bad, though. I’ll have a sprinkle here and there of people that dislike it or people that want the bookstore back. But the majority of people have given me positive reactions. Everybody’s just waiting.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.