It’s the second location for Drew Davis, who opened the first Gem Life shop in Pitman last year.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 13, 2022
In her younger years, Drew Davis described herself as “a vodka advocate.”
But when her beverage of choice began to seriously affect her health and well-being, Davis knew it was time to make a change.
After quitting alcohol, the myriad symptoms from which she had suffered—anxiety, neuropathy, inflammation—all subsided.
Her relationships improved along with her state of mind.
And Davis set out along a path of exploration, seeking out alternatives to alcohol that wouldn’t set her back, and which she could still enjoy socially.
Last year marked the culmination of her search with the opening of Gem Life + Bar in uptown Pitman, which Davis bills as a “booze-free bottle shop.”
Its shelves hold more than 150 different beverages: non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits; cocktail mixers, wellness beverages, and a selection of self-care products and home décor.
“We want to be the hidden gem where people can experience us and have these options,” Davis said. “We want to educate people, and allow them to experience what a mindful, conscious cocktail looks like.”
Davis sees Gem Life as an opportunity to reverse long-held social programming around alcohol consumption—that drinking “is what you do to celebrate; to mourn a loss; to be cool in high school; to be the sexy girl at the bar,” she said.
“You had a bad day? Have some vodka,” Davis said. “You have a good day? Open a bottle of wine. Our society has put it on us since we were kids.
“If you say you’re sober, people think you have a problem,” Davis said. “We want to normalize being alcohol-free.”
Gem Life customers range in age from 18 to 75, and includes people who have never drank alcohol as well as those trying to drink less of it, Davis said. People in recovery, pregnant women, or people who are “sober curious” are just as thirsty for craft cocktails as any bargoer.
“For so long, there’s been nothing for people to indulge in,” she said.
“We’re over sparkling water.”
In Pitman, Gem Life welcomed enough customers from the Camden County suburbs that Davis began looking for a way to get closer to them.
When the former Realm Chiropractic office in Collingswood became available, she didn’t hesitate.
“We have so many people that come down to Pitman and say, ‘I wish you were closer; I’d be here every week,’” Davis said.
“We really love the vibe and the businesses that are here [in Collingswood].
“We thought this would be the perfect piece to the puzzle.”
The Collingswood shop is headed for a late July retail opening, followed by a grand opening in the fall.
Davis plans to build out a bar and alcohol-free tasting lounge that will offer a curated selection of beverages. Guests can “sip and shop,” or stay for a few.
For Davis, it’s also a place to connect with other people who’ve moved away from alcoholic spirits and are ready to try something different.
“Gems are unique and rare and beautiful, and all different, and I feel like that’s the customer base who comes to me,” she said.
“We want to be your hidden gem, where you can take a minute, be yourself; get stuff that makes you feel good and helps you throughout your day and your week.”
Gem Life and Bar is planning a July 2022 opening at 557 Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. Hours have yet to be determined, but the shop will operate Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit gemlifecollective.com.