Grocery apps are trying to shed NYC hubs’ “crackhouse” reputation

Grocery delivery apps are trying to please disgruntled New York City neighbors and council members by renaming their barebones and potentially illegal delivery hubs into high-tech retail locations open to the public.

When the legion of apps – including Gopuff, Getir, Gorillas and Jokr – launched across the five boroughs last year, they gobbled up space for dark shops previously occupied by delis and boutiques, making the spaces “dark” shops ‘, which house groceries and are closed to the public.

Some local politicians have accused the apps of violating zoning laws by operating warehouses from retail lots, while residents have complained about the constant e-bike traffic, as well as workers working at all hours of the day loitering and smoking outside of delivery centers.

“Fast food delivery companies have realized that a dark shop is nothing more than the modern version of a crackhouse,” Brittain Ladd, a retail consultant who works with fast food delivery companies, told The Post. “They had the ugly cover over the window, people couldn’t go in unless they were working there. It attracted people to hang out and there have been a number of complaints about the noise and traffic.”

In some cases, The Post observed that delivery center floors were littered with rubbish. In others, delivery workers were seen riding e-bikes and scooters at lightning-fast speeds down city sidewalks. Even the cleanest and most organized hubs seem to come with fluorescent lighting and worn decor.

“Fast grocery delivery companies have realized that a dark shop is nothing more than the modern version of a crackhouse,” retail consultant Brittain Ladd told The Post.
William Farington
Gorillas Brooklyn
Dark shops like this Gorillas location in Brooklyn are now open for personal shopping.
Gabriella Bass

But now many of the delivery apps, including Getir, Gopuff and Gorillas, have started opening their stores to walk-in customers in an apparent attempt to both conform to building codes and disgruntled neighbors.

Getir delivery centers across the city put up “Walk-Ins Welcome” signs on their storefronts in March. Gorillas Hubs also removed foil from their windows and added “Pick up in store!” signs at their stores in March, as first reported by The Post. GoPuff told The Post that its stores have always welcomed walk-in customers, but some of its stores didn’t list “walk-in” hours until recently. Jokr didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether it accepts walk-ins or plans to add them.

Critics counter that the startups’ pickup signs at the store are little more than an attempt to glare at concerned city council members like Gale Brewer and Christopher Marte Sand, who have both called on city officials to investigate whether the apps violate zoning laws .

Even the tidiest delivery centers feature fluorescent lighting and barebones decor.
Gabriella Bass

Supporting this idea is the fact that the Getir, Gorillas, and GoPuff apps don’t appear to offer users the option to select in-store pickup, only offering delivery.

“While customers can currently walk into the store and place orders for in-store pickup, we recognize that the process is not as streamlined as we would like,” Getir founder Nazim Salur told The Post. “We are constantly working to improve our store operations, including improving the shopping experience. We expect these changes to be completed in the near future.”

“We’re here long term and look forward to working with city officials and community leaders as we create good jobs and provide a time-saving service throughout New York City that New Yorkers have already embraced,” added Salur.

Gorillas declined to comment. Jokr did not respond to requests for comment.

Many of the stores open to the public also violate city rules, which require stores to accept cash and display clearly marked prices on all items, among other things, Councilman Brewer said.

“They must have labels on the cereal,” Brewer raged to The Post. “That’s the law.”

Gopuff has also opened some personal shopping locations in what critics say is an attempt to circumvent the city’s zoning laws.
William Farington
Dark Shops
Neighbors have complained about e-bike traffic.
Gabriella Bass

Ladd, the retail consultant, said delivery apps need to work on making their stores “as welcoming as possible” to both appease the city council and please neighbors, who may then see the stores as neighborhood businesses rather than as disconsolately look at eyesore.

“What I said to Getir and Gorillas is that you need to change the perception of fast food delivery from something mysterious to something welcoming,” Ladd said.

But Ladd added that many of the startups were reluctant to let outsiders into their stores because they “mistakenly believed they needed to keep secret what they were doing in those stores.”

“I’ve said it to everyone: none of you have a competitive advantage here,” he said. “You all do the same thing.”

Fridge No More and Buyk, two other fast-delivery startups that collapsed in March, The Post exclusively reported, had no signs welcoming customers to their stores. Grocery apps are trying to shed NYC hubs’ “crackhouse” reputation


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