Bodega that staged ‘artisanal makeover’ now renting out front window on Airbnb

Bodega that staged ‘artisanal makeover’ now renting out front window on Airbnb
Photo by Jason Speakman

Call it a corner snore.

Jesse’s Deli — the Boerum Hill bodega that famously re-branded its everyday products as expensive artisanal specialities to protest a rent hike it can’t afford — is now listing space in its front window on Airbnb to rail against rising rents affecting mom-and-pop shops across New York, according to the mastermind behind the tongue-in-cheek stunt.

“We’re trying to dramatize the plight that many small businesses are facing with gentrification all over the city,” said Doug Cameron, who lives nearby and organized both campaigns with fellow advertising pro and Jesse’s regular Tommy Noonan.

The deli, a neighborhood staple of 25 years, is advertising shelf space at the front of its Atlantic Avenue storefront on the room-rental website for $329 per night — the price it would need to charge to cover the $10,000-a-month rent the store claims its landlord is demanding, Cameron said.

You can’t actually sleep overnight in Jesse’s, but visitors are encouraged to lie down in a bed in the store window and post a selfie on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag “#AirBnBodega.”

And the Airbnb listing really sells the experience.

“Set in a gentrifying neighborhood, this newly furnished semi-private room is separated from the 25-year-old Jesse’s Deli by a potato chips stand,” the page reads.

Other advertised amenities include a “luxurious walk-in refrigerator” and a “chef-style kitchen with professional toaster, meat slicer, and microwave.” The mini-bar also offers “assorted seasonal craft beers and imports” — though only with valid identification indicating 21 years of age.

Jesse’s made national headlines in June when it staged an “artisanal makeover” under the guidance of Cameron and Noonan, who decorated the store with posters advertising Slim Jims as “Hand-Cured Salami Tubes” for $5.99 each and Raid as $15.99 “Artisanal Roach Bombs” to illustrate the kind of shop that could afford the rent they say landlord Karina Bilger is asking for.

The deli has since given up trying to fight the rent increase — the owners expect to receive eviction papers and are looking for new locations, according to Mohammed Itayim, the son of eponymous owner Jesse.

But with nothing to lose, Itayim said he gave Cameron and Noonan free rein of the market for another gimmick.

“I was a little hesitant at first with the posters but when I saw all the positive reactions, I gave them free creative license, like that’s your window do whatever you want with it,” he said.

They’re using the Airbnb stunt to rally behind a Council bill that might save other small businesses from the same plight as Jesse’s — the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would guarantee local entrepreneurs 10-year leases with an option to renew and a structured arbitration process for negotiations.

Twenty-three councilmembers have already sponsored the bill, and the two bodega-loving rabble-rousers are hoping the campaign will win over the additional three members needed to pass the measure — which they have re-branded as “Bill de Bodega.”

The pair are hoping some big-name Brooklynites will stop by Jesse’s to take part in the “bed-in.” Mos Def and Ethan Hawke are both customers, said Cameron — though they’re dreaming even bigger.

“Of course we’d love to get hip-hop royalty Beyonce and Jay Z in here,” he said. “And since he’s in town maybe we should try and get the Pope.”

Bilger could not be immediately reached for comment.

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at hmaccormac[email protected]local.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.
Sign of the times: It wouldn’t be a Jesse’s Deli campaign without tongue-in-cheek posters.
Photo by Jason Speakman