Modesto’s Classic Awning

The bodega’s awning — toldo in Spanish — has been on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights for decades. It was there when Modesto Baez first took over Quisqueya Supermarket.

“I won’t change it because it’s metal,” Baez said in Spanish. “It’s a classic here at this avenue.”

Rain drops pelted the yellow awning on a mid-January afternoon. Over the heads of the customers trickling in and out of the store were written promises on the awning — “Cold Beer,” “Fruit & Vegetables,” and “Ice Cream.” Quisqueya, one of the names for island of Hispaniola that is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, is painted in green cursive.

Baez knows what he has.

“The awnings they’re putting up now are of fabric,” he said. “With the snow and the heat, they don’t last even six months.”

His face, tired from the monotony of being a bodega owner, stretched into an amused smile as he spoke about the awning’s popularity. All the blanquitos, he said, come and snap photos of it.

Some have asked if he ever wants to sell it. The answer to that has always been, and apparently will always be, a polite no.

(LISTEN: Modesto Baez speaks about his classic bodega awning in the below audio clip)