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Economy

The Dark Side of 15-Minute Grocery Delivery

Mini-warehouses dubbed “dark stores” are quietly taking over urban retail space. Left unregulated, the insatiable demand for faster delivery will only hasten the erosion of community life. 

This may look like an ordinary grocery store. But the only shoppers at this Getir warehouse in Istanbul, Turkey, are delivery workers. 

This may look like an ordinary grocery store. But the only shoppers at this Getir warehouse in Istanbul, Turkey, are delivery workers. 

Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe

When we think of resource frontiers, it calls to mind the rugged, glamorous classics: oil booms, gold rushes, or, in the not-so-distant future, asteroid mining. But the latest is closer to home. Whether you live in Manhattan, Hollywood, or beyond, the storefronts and sidewalks in your city are being mined.

Over the last year, cities across the U.S. and Europe have seen a rapid rise in the number of dark stores — mini-warehouses stocked with groceries to be delivered in 15 minutes or less. Operated by well-funded startups such as Getir, Gopuff, Jokr and Gorillas, dark stores are quietly devouring retail spaces, transforming them into minimally staffed distribution centers closed to the public. In New York City, where seven of these services are currently competing for market share (including new entrant DoorDash), these companies have occupied dozens of storefronts since July, with expansion plans calling for hundreds more in that city alone.