Grocery

Buena Vida Bodega Brings Culture and Color to the Garfield District

Buena Vida owners Jacqueline Garay and JT Taber II
Buena Vida owners Jacqueline Garay and JT Taber II Alexis Trevizo
There’s a new store in the Garfield district that will no doubt catch your eye. With glowy green carved aliens, shiny crystals begging to be held, hanging plants in glass globes, and unique local handmade jewelry beckoning from the display windows, it’s impossible not to step inside Buena Vida Bodega, a light and lively space on Pierce and 10th Street that opened in September.

You are indeed stepping into the good life, at least how owners Jacqueline Garay and JT Taber II envision it – and live it. Redefining what you might find in a traditional corner store, Buena Vida is a metaphysical-wellness-craft-gift-novelty-necessities-food-booze shop, a hyphenate much like the multi-dimensional owners themselves (Jacqueline’s background is in design, aromatherapy, and sound healing, while JT’s is in bartending, coffee shops, and carpentry).

“Buena Vida is more than a bodega; it is a mantra that encourages the simple pleasures of everyday rituals that promote the good life,” says Garay. It’s one-stop shopping without the one-stop feel.

The seed for Buena Vida Bodega was planted on a year-long adventure the now-married couple took through Latin America. In 2018, Jacqueline and JT decided to sell their home in Phoenix and all their belongings and head to Argentina (to see Radiohead). During their travels, they experienced a unique corner store in almost every neighborhood, a place that offered both goods and social interaction.

click to enlarge From artisan pinatas to CBD-infused bean to bar chocolates, so much local loot. - JACQUELINE GARAY
From artisan pinatas to CBD-infused bean to bar chocolates, so much local loot.
Jacqueline Garay
“We loved these experiences, as the shopkeeper always had the best off the beaten path recommendations and provided a unique perspective of the area,” adds Garay.

Family roots also played a role. JT’s family lives in Mexico, while Jacqueline’s hail from El Salvador, where her grandmother owns a bodega, and they wanted to create something both hyper-local and culturally diverse.

“We come from risk-takers and romantics, and while connecting and learning more about our family origins, we realized that the confluence of intentional product storytelling and hospitality could help provide a more powerful consumer experience,” says Garay.

It’s not enough to say Buena Vida offers a curated selection of jewelry, clothing, beverages, snacks, and artisan gifts, many made right here in Phoenix; every item comes with intention.

“Our operating principle for choosing products centered around a trinity of mind, body, and home,” says Garay. “We decided to build our offerings around the notion of ‘ritual experience’ and chose the term Modern Mystic Provisions as a representation for the full scope of what Buena Vida carries.”

click to enlarge The cooler is stocked with local booze and beyond. - JACQUELINE GARAY
The cooler is stocked with local booze and beyond.
Jacqueline Garay

That means customers don’t just pop in and out; they browse, wander, and discover in a more immersive way: They breathe in the grounding aromas of incense, they relax a little with the therapeutic sound of water, and they peruse products with a traveler’s mindset, everything from a $3 can of Tepache fermented pineapple juice to a $1,500 lamp hand-carved in Arizona. So even if someone comes in search of, say, a bottle of wine, they could leave with tarot cards, a crystal tower, Arizona sake from Holbrook or perhaps rolling papers, fresh flowers, and an artisan piñata made in Phoenix.

Designed and built by JT and Jacqueline, the bodega meets their minds and entity.

“With JT’s background in hospitality, he curated the wine and beer program and was able to practice his carpentry skills and helped build the bodega. With my background in design and love of sensory experiences, I was able to breathe life and give the space direction,” says Garay. “But really, the bodega has a personality of its own, and it’s been beautiful to witness and watch how it evolves and grows the more people interact and engage with the space.”

A needed addition to Phoenix, the store’s personality comes through in the community vibe fostered by pop-ups featuring local makers, in the enthusiasm over finding the perfect candle or suncatcher, and in interactions with JT and Jacqueline.

“Having lived here our whole lives, we’ve always heard about how Phoenix should be inspired by places like Portland, LA, or Santa Fe. But ultimately, we want to foster an environment where we encourage a sense of place and an understanding of what it means to be of and for Phoenix,” says Garay.

Buena Vida Bodega
1002 East Pierce Street
Open 4-9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; Closed Monday and Tuesday.
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Allison Young has written about food, nutrition, and travel for Sunset, Women’s Health, Oxygen, Clean Eating, Mindbodygreen, and Prevention. Her local jam is food writing, where she happily eats her way across the Valley to discover the best hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, pizza joints, and the latest Phoenix food trends. She also loves to pick Valley chef’s brains for their favorite food finds. On her website, TheGlitterList.com, she posts one thing she’s looking forward to each day, from food to books and podcasts.
Contact: Allison Young