One store in Baltimore, Maryland is boosting the zero-proof alcohol industry by offering a good time in a bottle that anyone can enjoy.
With basically no business experience, Darryl Collins opened up Maryland’s first non-alcoholic bottle shop in the summer of 2023 — Hopscotch. His first venture as a small business entrepreneur, Darryl’s goal is to educate the public on the different non-alcoholic beverages out there and offer consumers an alternative to alcohol.
“I am an attorney by trade, which is a very stressful job, and so I found myself going to happy hours after work,” Darryl said. “One day while I was shopping at a grocery store, I came across Athletic, which is a non-alcoholic beer. I fell in love with it, and then throughout the week, went back and forth between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer.”
It All Started With a Drink
This love for non-alcoholic beer was the start of Darryl’s journey into opening his very own storefront.
What’s funny is that Darryl never intended to open up a non-alcoholic beverage shop. His dream first started with wanting to open up a cat cafe — which he is still in the process of doing — and while coming up with those plans, people were asking if he was going to have beer and wine available in the cafe.
Just a Hop, Skip, and a Jump Away
“I spoke with my zoning attorney, and there is a church right across the street from the cafe. Due to the old rules of the city, you can’t sell alcohol within 500 ft of a church,” Darryl said. “This brought me back to when I drank non-alcoholic beverages, and I thought ‘How cool would it be to serve non-alcoholic beverages?’”
Once the idea sprouted, Darryl started conducting research and found the Mindful Drinking Fest in Washington D.C. Here, his eyes were opened to all of the different spirits, wine, and everything else in the non-alcoholic industry. After having a conversation with a non-alcoholic shop owner and doing more research, Darryl found the perfect location for his new idea: Hopscotch.
Beverages for Everyone
The name Hopscotch came to fruition based upon the two types of customers that Darryl wanted to target: the sober-curious and the sober-serious. Some people just have one foot into the non-alcoholic beverage space, which are the sober-curious type, and then sober-serious people have two feet in and don’t consume any alcohol at all.
“People have asked me if there is truly a market for this,” Darryl said. “And when you break it all down, you think about pregnant women who can’t consume alcohol, or people who have been told by a doctor not to consume alcohol while taking certain medication, and then there are people who are into health and fitness who don’t drink alcohol, and those who don’t drink for religious reasons. Those are just a few of the different groups who are interested in this market.”
Cheers to the Future
While working on the cat cafe on the side, Darryl has plans to continue to market Hopscotch and educate consumers on the different varieties of non-alcoholic beverages that out there.
“With this being the first in the state and many people still not familiar with non-alcoholic beverages, it’s not just about selling bottles. It’s also about educating the public,” Darryl said. “I didn’t even know this option was available. And as we continue to educate and attract more interest in the area, we will then look at opening another location.”
Until then, Darryl’s heart is still set on opening a cat cafe which will also include a speakeasy that serves non-alcoholic beers and cocktails. It will be the perfect place for consumers to chill and vibe out in a bar atmosphere with zero-proof drinks.