Meet Grace Vroom and Joe Patterson, the innovative minds behind Austin, TX's first non-alcoholic bottle shop, dear dry drinkery. Their journey from launching a modest trailer to opening a brick-and-mortar location in a matter of months is not just a story of entrepreneurial success, but also a window into the the rapidly changing social and drinking culture. Grace and Joe's personal stories of sobriety and support paint a true picture of resilience, innovation, and the power of community in overcoming life's challenges.
"Our goal is to help people connect with everything they hold dear with more clarity and care than they otherwise would with alcohol." -Grace Vroom & Joe Patterson
"What inspired you to open dear dry drinkery?"
"We opened our non-alcoholic bottle shop to offer folks compelling and delicious alternatives to alcohol. Whether you’re sober, sober-curious or just looking to drink less, our goal is to help people connect with everything they hold dear with more clarity and care than they otherwise would with alcohol. One of the most beautiful things about this type of business is how people often entrust us with such intimate details about their lives and in some small way, we’re able to be a part of their stories, hopefully helping them navigate from dark times to brighter days. That’s the stuff that makes all the effort and challenges and commitment worthwhile. We’re thrilled to see so many other NA brands, bottle shops, bars and spaces popup all over the world. We hope to continue to help build a community around healthier living, where people can feel included, and feel like they can still have fun even without booze."
What's one habit, routine, or way of being that helps you live life ?
Since we opened up our shop, time anxiety has been a struggle for us. Our to-do list has grown so long and overwhelming that we feel there simply isn't enough time to do EVERYTHING we want and need to do every single day."
Joe: "When Grace is struggling to wake up early to fit a few more things in the day, we set an intention of waking up early and watching an episode of Cheers together first thing - it puts us in a good mood for the day and makes waking up seem less daunting and more fun."
Grace: "Joe loves starting his day from there with hot lemon water and we both dunk our face in an ice water bath before getting ready for the day. It's not always easy for us to keep up with every single "wellness hack" we see on the internet, so we improvise and keep the ones we enjoy to make sure our days start off with a refreshing bang!"
What's a recent goal you've achieved that you are proud of?
"At the beginning of 2023, we opened up a tiny trailer at a food truck park in Austin to sell non-alcoholic cocktails along with bottles and cans of our favorite non-alc drinks. We called it dear dry drinkery (as an ode to the dear moments we hope to facilitate among people who are dear to each other) and had a goal of opening up a brick-and-mortar space within 2 years of opening the mobile trailer. However, the original idea was such a success that we were able to open the brick-and-mortar location just four months ago! Folks keep asking us, "what now?" and we're still just so stunned we were able to make this dream a reality so quickly that we don't have an answer to that question yet."
Grace: "The inspiration for the shop started when I moved to Austin nearly 8 years ago. I knew I needed to come to terms with my alcohol addiction and felt it was an opportunity to get sober as a fresh start in a new city. At the same time, it was difficult to avoid alcohol in a city where there are at least two whole streets completely dedicated to drinking, bartenders only had Diet Coke or Topo Chico on hand as booze-free options, and almost every event was sponsored by a major alcohol brand.
My partner, Joe, opted to quit drinking as well to help support me in my sobriety and he was also getting frustrated with how often folks who didn’t drink were told to enjoy sparkling water while everyone else could have their pick from a wide variety of beautifully-crafted cocktails or tantalizing booze-in-a-can options. We were elated to find a community at Sans Bar (Austin’s only and the country’s first non-alcoholic bar) and ease the inevitable loneliness that comes with being the odd one out at nearly every single social event in Austin.
We quickly became curious about all the non-alcoholic beverages we were sipping on at Sans Bar and looked into how we could build our bar cart at home - to enjoy the ritual of drinking something special at the end of a long day. We also wanted to craft our own drinks to share with friends and family. When building our home bar, we would often find that it would cost over $50 a bottle or pack of booze-free spirits, plus additional shipping and taxes, only to find out we didn’t like it at all…and have to do it all over again until we found something we enjoyed. Or the other option was to go to a major liquor store and walk past bottles of the very substance I’m addicted to, only to have a sales associate tell me that what we wanted to try was “next to the juices” and had no additional information or insight into the beverages beyond that.
We were desperate for a place where we could explore non-alcoholic beverages in one spot without the distraction of booze, with knowledgeable people who could make suggestions based on what we liked so we didn’t have to waste money trying to find the right thing through the internet. Thus, dear dry drinkery was born!"
Roadblock and Resolution: What's a significant obstacle or challenge in your life?
Grace: "My mom was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia, called FTD, about 5 years ago, at the age of 58. It woke up my whole family when we got that diagnosis, especially since she has been a North Star for so many of us and we knew this was the beginning of a very long road navigating how to care for someone with an under-researched, cruel disease. I often hear people say they wish I could have a drink to help get through the pain of watching my mom endure her disease, but my sobriety has been absolutely essential to finding joyful moments where I can and handling the erratic emotions that come with the experience of slowly losing a parent. I have repeatedly learned lessons around communicating my needs while supporting her when I can, especially when it comes to asking for help. I carry a lot of shame when it comes to asking for help, especially when I’m not the one who has to experience FTD first hand. Luckily, I have a partner who understands that and helps me get clearer and more direct when it comes to asking for help.
Sometimes that just starts with telling someone close to you what it looks like to create safety around asking for help! For me, it’s hearing when they’re feeling overwhelmed so I don’t take their help for granted and cause resentment. And the help can be something as simple as making an appointment for an oil change so I don’t feel stressed when driving home to see my mom for the holidays. Also, remembering that people enjoy the feeling of being helpful can be a motivator to ask for help more often."
"Remembering that people enjoy the feeling of being helpful can be a motivator to ask for help more often."
Joe: "I’m someone who very much values comfort, safety and routine, so for me moving across the country to Austin after spending basically my whole life in Boston was tough. Leaving my family and friends forced me to step way outside my comfort zone. I quickly learned that the people in Austin were surprisingly friendly (a little too friendly if you ask me…). And even though the weather in Austin is generally better than in Boston, the allergies hit me HARD. Figuring out all the logistical stuff, like finding a new job on top of navigating the social and political scene of the city was a big challenge. Fortunately, I have an amazing and supportive partner who, being a native Texan, helped me navigate and understand some of the cultural nuances. The move and its challenges taught me valuable lessons in embracing discomfort and facing fear. Through it all, I discovered more about myself — my values, and the kinds of people and things that matter to me."
Is there a specific tool, app that contributes to your personal development journey?
Grace: "I use an app on my phone called Flora to help me stay focused on the variety of tasks I have to do everyday. I hit start on the app and it grows a tree for me while a 25-minute timer runs. It blocks my apps for me so I don’t look at my phone while I’m getting work done in those time chunks. If I cancel it to use my phone, the tree dies. I never want to be the Tree Murderer, so it’s a great motivator to keep me going on my to-do’s. It’s a weird little thing but it helps me avoid dopamine hits from my phone!"
Joe: "I’m a little embarrassed to admit, I’ve been using an app called “My Water” to remind me to drink more water throughout the day. It sends me encouraging messages, which really help, especially on busy or stressful days. It’s a nice way to take a quick break, hydrate and catch my breath for a minute."
What's an educational piece of content that's impacted your life for the better?
Grace: "Holly Whitaker, podcast host and author of Quit Like a Woman, started a digital recovery program called Hip Sobriety School in 2015 and it was invaluable to my recovery from alcohol addiction. While it’s no longer available, what I loved about it was that it was the first alternative to AA that I had ever seen. I spent years avoiding sobriety because I thought that not drinking alcohol meant I would have to spend the rest of my life sitting in a dark church basement claiming I had no power over my body, praying to a deity I do not believe in.
I love AA for saving my friends’ lives but I personally struggled with the lack of options available when it came to recovery. I could relate to Holly’s messy story of wanting to be free from the grips of booze, but not knowing what to do after the fact. She had a series of blog posts about building a sobriety toolkit and the wonders of experiencing music festivals without alcohol. The whole thing felt less daunting through her eyes. I didn’t have to become a yoga-obsessed early bird with perfect habits overnight. She made it seem like it was possible to do hard things, even as an unhealthy, disorganized person.
The book Blackout by Sarah Hepola was another teacher for me. I read it because I had been a huge fan of Sarah’s work as the music editor for the Dallas Observer. Then I read the book and a very bright light bulb turned on. It was such a relatable story of a woman believing the countless lies she had been told - that alcohol was her sexiest, most exciting best friend in life…only to find out it was quite the opposite."
Joe: "I really love the work of standup comedian Neal Brennan. In his standup specials, One Mic and Blocks, he delves into overcoming depression and anxiety in honest, heartfelt, and humorous ways I hadn’t ever seen before. He also has a podcast called Blocks where he interviews comedians, actors, athletes, musicians,. about their respective “blocks” - insecurities, limited beliefs, anxieties — and how they overcome them. It’s really eye-opening to hear these otherwise seemingly successful and confident people get real about their fears, and it makes me feel less alone in whatever my own struggles are. Plus, I get to hear some helpful coping tips from people I admire who were able to overcome their struggles and build beautiful careers and lives for themselves in spite of them."
Last Question: What inspired you to sell the Lifey Planner at dear dry drinkery?
"We carry the Lifey Planner in our shop and it’s such a joy to see folks add it to their stash of non-alc drinks. Often, we meet people who are starting out on a mindful drinking path and don’t know where to begin. Having one place where you can gather your thoughts, map out your goals and share gratitude for life is super valuable –especially for a time where you may feel life is full of chaos and/or uncertainty! We really appreciate the chance to share the incredible tool that is Lifey—it's both a lifesaver and a life-builder."
As we wrap up this edition of The Lifey Pulse, we extend our deepest gratitude to Joe and Grace, our January 2024 Featured Lifers, for their inspiring story to turn a dream into reality with dear dry drinkery. To follow their daily journey on Instagram, follow @deardrydrinkery and the next time you are in Austin, TX, be sure to visit their bottle shop at 2226 East Cesar Chavez in Austin, TX.