Welcome to Spirited Away
Hi everyone! I’m Douglas, the founder of Spirited Away, and I want to tell you the story of how our store came to be in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I started to reconsider my relationship with alcohol in the summer of 2020 when I no longer had an evening commute home from work. I spent all day working in my apartment and then “commuted” home by closing my laptop. Gone were the days of a subway or Citibike ride home from the office to decompress and switch from “work” mode to “life” mode. So, my wife and I became even more reliant than before on the ritual of an after-work cocktail. It wasn’t about the effects of the alcohol - it was about the ritual of mixing a cocktail, the slowing down, the acknowledgment that the workday is over, it’s time to spend time together or with friends. However, I was soon drinking more alcohol than I would have liked given the fact that I had also been thinking a lot about health, wellness, and, in particular, longevity.
I was reading about various communities in Greece, Sardinia and elsewhere in the Mediterranean that were known for especially long lives. And this is where I started to see the contradiction between health and alcohol and, most worryingly, the story being told that alcohol is, in fact, good for us. And there’s no way that something good for your health can cause you to wake up with a headache and desperately reach for water. Even in moderation alcohol isn't doing us any favors.
Alcohol, ubiquitous in American and many other cultures, is at odds with our health. Despite apparent correlation between longevity and moderate alcohol consumption, specifically red wine, there is an ever-expanding body of research demonstrating that any amount of alcohol is harmful to our health. It’s even harmful to the health of those who drink five glasses of wine a day and somehow live to be a hundred years old. They aren’t exempt. None of us are. But I’ll tell you what I believe keeps us healthy and helps us live longer - each other. Our connection with people - ourselves, our spouses, our friends, our family, our community. It is social bonds, and loving relationships, that studies have shown actually extend lives.
So, when octogenarian friends Giorgios, Yannis, and Nikolaus sit by the sea, popping anchovies, sharing a few bottles of Agiorgitiko and laughing long into the evening, it isn’t the wine that’s extending their lives - it’s the camaraderie. The wine is bad for their health, but the socialization benefits outweigh those negatives, and net/net they live longer.
Luckily for alcohol, it has gotten to stand on the shoulders of the things which actually feel good - connection, community, presence, long meals with family and friends, dancing, and conversations that go well into the night. And then Covid happened and, finally, socialization and alcohol consumption were mostly separated. Without the social component, like drinking wine every night while watching Netflix, alcohol suddenly stopped keeping its promises.
Long story short, I want to live a long, healthy life. So, I eventually started to explore the world of no and low ABV cocktails. And it was in my search for products that would help me achieve simple, no, and low ABV cocktails that I found out how difficult it was to find these products in the city of New York. Whereas you can walk through any neighborhood and pass multiple wine and liquor stores, I was going far out of my way, at weird times of day, to get my hands on one bottle of Seedlip. The state of New York, like several other states, prohibits the sale of non-alcoholic beverages in liquor stores. So, if I wanted to purchase these products, I had to go online. Soon, my apartment was full of cardboard boxes, trash, and recycling and I was waiting days to finally get my hands on the products. I missed walking into a wine store, speaking to the employees, learning something new, and feeling the bottles for myself. I wanted a better experience - a brick-and-mortar store where I could engage with people while I was shopping and walk home with a bottle or two in my hands ready to enjoy.
Then, still in the summer of 2020, while sitting on the sofa, I realized that I could be the one to create this experience for myself and for others. By September I had signed a lease for a small place on Ludlow and Stanton in the Lower East Side, and in November, with very little promotion or fanfare, Spirited Away opened its doors for the first time. We operated out of that location for the first year, but new brands and products were launching faster than we could have ever imagined. So, we moved to our current location at 177 Mott Street where we intend to grow for many years along with our community, products, and brands.
Social connection is central to what I wanted to create with Spirited Away. So, this is my invitation to come by, say hi, drink with us at an event, tell us what you’re excited about on social media, ask us questions, and let us help you. We want you to get to know us and we want to get to know you. Spirited Away isn’t just about replacing pretty bottles of alcohol with pretty bottles of something else. It’s about giving New York a more human, interactive, community-centered way of exploring non-alcoholic beverage options. We’re excited about what we’re selling - trust us, they’re good - but what we’re more interested in is the experience you have buying them, enjoying them, and sharing them with your friends and family.
Spirited Away is my contribution to trying to short circuit the alcohol —> socializing —> longevity correlation chain. Let’s skip the alcohol altogether and see if we can’t foster similar connections over thoughtful, non-alcoholic adult drinks intended for socializing. If that works, we can have our cake and eat it too.