I’ve never had an interviewee feel the need to cut my hair while we talked. “I’m just more natural at conversation when I’m cutting,” says Erin Flavin as she slices six inches of hair off my head at her Honeycomb Salon. Her 12-year-old south Minneapolis salon sits next to the space that will eventually become Marigold, a new kind of liquor store that won’t actually sell liquor. It’s the city’s first bottle shop with only nonalcoholic beverages on the shelves.
Point of origin? “Of course, it was the pandemic,” Flavin recounts as she snips. “Everything went upside down, we were boarded up, and I drank hard. I drank a lot.” For someone who had spent her days chatting with clients in the chair, it was especially easy to grab a bottle to help fill the social gap that emerged in those lockdown days. “I was getting margarita mixers from Hola Arepa across the street. I would go to the store and leave with three bottles of wine. It was my only hobby besides taking care of the kids and running my business. But I would wake up every morning and think, Is this a hangover, or is it COVID? Every morning. I just got tired of it.”
Flavin began looking for substitutes for booze, beverages she could swap in that left her feeling better the next morning. “I started looking for sparkling botanicals and teas and just researching all the cool products out there for people who can’t drink or just want to take a break.” Because in the end, as she says, “you don’t want to lose the experience; you just want to lose the alcohol and its effect on your body.”
In the past, popular movements that have been adopted by the “sober curious,” like Dry January or Sober September, had never appealed to her. But now, as she’s given up alcohol completely, she feels like she has a better understanding of the way sobriety can play a role in the social fabric of people’s lives.
I agree, though I have to admit I flinched at the loose interpretation when it became cool to give up alcohol for a month and call yourself sober. It felt offensive to my friends who work really hard to beat alcoholism, struggling daily. But over time, like Flavin, I’ve come to understand that sobriety can be viewed on a spectrum, validating those who are working to lessen alcohol’s grip as much as those who choose to dump it altogether. Perhaps you don’t need other people’s definitions and guidelines to be able to make the right choice for yourself. And maybe, with this broader perspective, the market can evolve, offer more options and avenues, and make it easier to still enjoy a robust social life without the booze. Flavin believes “sobriety is beneficial, no matter how or when it happens.”
Marigold is named for the old Minneapolis club where Flavin’s parents used to go dancing. “I still want to hang out, and I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable because I’m not drinking. I want there to be a space where we all can feel good and social, whatever’s in your glass.” She’s actually selling NA bottles in her salon while the space next door is coming together, and when finished, it will be a true extension of the salon. Flavin sees it as more than a retail bottle shop in the future. It could be a space for events and conversation, too. “Maybe we’ll have to have discussion panels in salon chairs so that I can talk,” she jokes. “It will just be the other kind of salon.”
Earlier this spring, Flavin had a pop-up party called Buzz Cut to introduce friends to the space and show people what was in the works with local NA makers such as Dry Wit and 3Leche. They showcased a number of NA beers and sippers that they’ve brought into the city. Originally, the invite had room for 60, but the event sold out and racked up a waiting list of 40 people—for a no-booze party on a cold spring night.
“I’ve had a long life of drinking in Minneapolis, and there are such great drinks here,” Flavin muses. “It’s just time to redefine what that kind of social life can look like.” Look for Marigold to open later this summer.