It’s a Bodega

Trio of owners brings global flavor to Boulder

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Armani Pacheco, Abel Melara and Mason Ham (from left to right), co-owners of Boulder’s It’s a Bodega met in high school.

Sizzling artificial squid-flavored Lays from China. Garlic baguette-flavored Sun Chips from Korea. Matcha KitKats from Japan.

Boulderites don’t have to travel across the globe to sample these familiar snacks in unfamiliar flavors — they just need to head to University Hill. 

It’s a Bodega, a convenience-store-style international snack shop, opened off Broadway in February. 

Pearl Convenience. 1640 Pearl St.

Silk Road Grill and Market. 2607 Pearl St.

Mediterranean Market & Deli. 2690 28th St.

Cuji Foods. 3340 Arapahoe Ave.

India Bazaar. 1542 28th St.

India’s Grocery. 2877 28th St.

Panaderia Sabor a Mexico. 2839 28th St.

Las 10 Americas Carniceria. 2887 30th St.

El Valle Market. 2887 30th St.

Carniceria La Zacatecana Mexican Grocery Store.
 
4483 Broadway

Asian Food Market. 2829 28th St.

LeFrigo. 5630 Arapahoe Ave.

Alta Cucina. 2021 Broadway

Did we miss something? Email us at nibbles@boulderweekly.com and we’ll add it to our online listing.

“It was an opportunity to bring something new to Boulder that we don’t have,” says Armani Pacheco, one of the shop’s three owners and a 2023 CU Boulder alum. “There’s really no exotic goods or really exotic anything up here. It was a new way to let people indulge in a new experience.” 

The Denver-based franchise first opened in 2020 and now has locations opening in Chicago and Indianapolis. Co-owner Abel Melara was one of the shop’s faithful customers, frequenting the spot with his girlfriend before movie nights and favoring it over standard gas stations and convenience stores. 

“It’s been years that I’ve been shopping with them,” he says. “So I was like, ‘I love this spot.’ I love finding snacks that other people can’t find. It’s like, ‘Where do you find that?’ ‘It’s a bodega.’” 

Pacheco, Melara and co-owner Mason Ham are all in their early 20s and have known each other since they were students at Wheat Ridge High School and Jefferson High School. They met through shared networks of friends and events like Sneaker Con. Ham and Melara also worked together at a sneaker shop with eventual part-owner of the bodega’s Denver location, Adam Wildenberg.   

“It wasn’t a hard decision, especially when we’re all in it together,” Melara says of deciding to join the franchise with his two friends. “We’ve got each other’s backs.” 

And while sneakers aren’t edible and you can’t wear Doritos on your feet (or can you?), there’s a cultural crossover between the Bodega boys’ favorite ventures. 

“With the sneaker community, there’s just a lot of exclusivity. There’s certain things you can and can’t get. I know a lot of people who are into not even just sneakers but collectibles, clothes — anything that’s scarce in numbers,” Melara says. “You know, ‘Let me find the best place to eat in every city.’ ‘Let me find the best snacks.’ They always tend to want the rarest.”

The shop is also a stoner’s paradise. A friend of mine, after trying the garlic baguette sunchips said, “I think I would like them better if I was high.” 

“Yep,” he said, post-toke. 

Though perhaps it’s best to visit the store before you’re in the throes of the munchies — a bag of chips runs about $7, but the shop offers a 15% discount for CU students.   

It’s a Bodega carries snacks from across the globe.

The far-flung tastes also tend to draw students who have studied abroad, military families and international students, the owners say. And they’re always open to recommendations for new goodies. 

“I also like the people that come in like, ‘Oh, you guys should try and carry this,’” Ham says. “It helps broaden our knowledge, because right now we’re just kind of going off what we either know is good or we’ve tried before.”

Melara favors the premium Hi-Chews. Pacheco is partial to Japanese peach Fanta. Ham’s favorite in the shop are sweet basil Lays. 

“I don’t know what is up with them,” Ham says, “but they are so good.” 

The shop is still bare bones, with selections of snacks on each side of the narrow, below-ground space. Eventually, more shelves will fill the shop, and back rooms currently off limits for customers might open for private events. The owners hope to develop relationships with the university and host student art on the shop’s walls. All in all, they’re excited to join the ranks of Boulder’s small businesses. 

“People definitely want stuff that’s in bigger cities,” Melara says. “Boulder’s got such a big name to it, it’s a nice city to be in. So I mean, just to see more businesses and other kinds of things — Asian restaurants, Salvadorian restaurants, stuff like that. It’s kind of cool to see the different things pop up.”