How a new fragrance shop—the first of its kind in town—is navigating the pandemic

Indiehouse Modern Fragrance Bar in downtown Alpharetta boasts 42 niche brands and 150 scents from around the world

Indiehouse Modern Fragrance Bar

Photograph courtesy of Indiehouse Modern Fragrance Bar

Local shops have pivoted to a time when fewer customers are shopping in stores. Designer Abbey Glass has hosted outdoor “sidewalk sales” of her feminine frocks; Megan Huntz created a “care package” including a candle and an eye mask to be shipped to friends; the Victorian plant shop, with its new storefront at Ponce City Market, has even listed all of its exotic plants in an online shop, with delivery and curbside pickup options. But for some things, it’s hard to replace the in-store experience: Indiehouse Modern Fragrance Bar opened in downtown Alpharetta in the middle of the pandemic as the metro area’s first independent fragrance shop, carrying 42 niche brands and 150 scents from around the world, most of which aren’t available elsewhere in the city—plus a blending bar where shoppers can mix their own custom scents.

“The idea was to celebrate community,” says owner Carrie Hadley, who had prepared for years to open the shop, with workshops a big part of the plan. It’s not exactly a time when shoppers want to be smelling each other’s wrists, and it’s hard to mandate masks when your nose is the key player, but Hadley does have a few things going for her. She has a standalone building in the heart of Alpharetta’s historic downtown, where people can stroll with open containers. In addition to limiting customers and taking temperatures at the door, she’s equipped the store with heavy-duty air purifiers intended to trap scent molecules, typically even smaller particles than virus droplets. Plus, she says, scents can make people happy. They trigger memory and routine. (And, as an added bonus, they can tell you if you’ve lost your sense of smell—a reported symptom of COVID-19.)

“It’s no surprise people are gravitating toward brighter, happier, calming scents right now,” she says. “Scent can really pick up your mood.” (Bergamot and chamomile have been top picks.) Hadley also carries candles and home fragrances, and if you’re not up for sniffing in store, she’ll ship samples you can test at home, for $19 for three blends. Fragrances range from under $100 to more than $300.

This article appears in our September 2020 issue.