Seachangers earn their keep
Forsaking city life for the coastal culture opened business opportunities for one former Melbourne couple, Annie Reid reports
MELBOURNE couple Steph Powell and Annie Glasson do a different sort of chasing these days. Gone are their old lives chasing time, cocktails and cafes. Now they listen out for the cars chasing each other down Bells Beach Boulevard in the early hours of the morning, which tell them the surf’s good.
‘‘ We had just done this great renovation in Hampton and had only been in the house for six months, when Steph said ‘ right, that’s it let’s go’,’’ says Glasson.
So in 1996, Powell packed up his landscape design and construction company and Annie left her highpressure tourism and marketing role and the Queens Street city commute.
The couple bought a 2.4ha property in Torquay, south of Geelong, for their family of two young boys, Sam and Jamie. Bells Beach is down the road and Jan Juc just around the corner.
‘‘ There was a condition to it to try it out for a year, so we rented out our Hampton house as a link back to Melbourne,’’ Glasson says. Now, a few years later, they love it. No longer having to constantly rush to coincide the boys’ school drop- offs and pick- ups with the Sandringham line to work, Glasson only has to drop them off at the beach these days — they hate missing out on the surf.
Now 13 and 14, they are both sponsored by Rip Curl in a junior development squad.
Powell pounds the surf too and has successfully continued the work of his company along the Surf Coast.
‘‘ It’s funny, even though I grew up surfing and going to the Mornington Peninsula every year on holiday, I never thought I would actually move to the beach,’’ Glasson says.
‘‘ We enjoy living away from suburbia and having space around us.
‘‘ Living on six acres ( 2.4ha), there is lots of room to scream and yell as well as loving the quietness of living with lots of bird life, frogs in the dam and fresh eucalypt trees.’’
With such a strong water connection, it is fitting that Glasson came across Endota Spa.
Glasson liked the philosophy of the spa franchise and, with her business partner Kim Wittman, met with the Endota Spa founders Melanie Gleeson and Belinda Fraser to chat about opening spas along the Surf Coast.
Gleeson and Fraser identified the market niche in 2000 and, from starting a spa in Mount Martha, have grown to become the nation’s largest Australian- owned spa- franchised network.
Revenue has grown 28 per cent from last year and the pair aim to open 50 spas within seven years — there are 27 at the moment.
‘‘ I just thought this is a great concept because there was nothing here,’’ Glasson says.
‘‘ We didn’t know anything about spas — Kim was a Phys Ed teacher and I was in tourism.’’
The partners soon opened Lorne’s first spa.
Opening as part of the Cumberland Resort in 2005, the spa is opposite the beach and offers a geisha tub, hydrotherapy bath, four treatment rooms, one double room and a range of treatments, including their signature ‘‘ Drenched’’, which uses Endota’s own organic skin- care products.
Business is good, with more clients wanting the experience of a spa treatment.
‘‘ They come in looking exhausted and always walk out much more relaxed,’’ Glasson says.
As for Glasson herself, it’s been a process of ups and downs, with life very different to Hampton’s cafe culture. ‘‘ I knew only one other girl from school who lived in Torquay, and the shopping wasn’t like at home.
‘‘ Geelong is still rather behind with groovy retail shops — Torquay has some good shops but is dominated by the surfing industry.
‘‘ I still love fashion but my attitudes have changed and I don’t worry so much about buying clothes like I used to. I still like to keep up with the fashion but certainly not as much, probably as I don’t wear suits or corporate wear any more.’’
Luckily for Glasson, it seems ‘‘ spaing’’ is very ‘‘ in’’ right now.
Olivia Newton- John set up
the exclusive Gaia Retreat and Spa in the hinterland behind Byron Bay, in honour of her late mother, while the spa at the Sebel Heritage Yarra Valley is coowned by Celebrity Overhaul and Today personality John Tickell.
Tourism Victoria jumped onboard a few years ago and last month launched a charter following their 2005 five- year action plan to place Victoria’s spas on the map with the Czech Republic’s Karlovy Vary, England’s Bath, Japan and New Zealand.
Victoria is home to nearly all the natural mineral water resources in Australia, including more than 100 natural mineral springs mostly found in Hepburn and Daylesford.
There are also two geothermal sites, one on the Mornington Peninsula, Richard and Charles Davidson’s Hot Peninsula Springs retreat, and the other the Mantra Deep Blue retreat in Warrnambool, which is due to open shortly.
According to Tourism Victoria, visits to Australian spas have increased by 26 per cent over the past two years, and Victorian spas represent 24 per cent of Australia’s total spa market.
‘‘ Spa tourism has huge potential. While the industry is much less developed in Australia than overseas, the growth opportunities are good as demand for ‘ alternative’ and lifestyle experiences grows,’’ Tourism Victoria chief executive Gregory Hywood says. Kirien Withers, editor- in- chief of
magazine and former president and board member of the Austra- lasian Spa Association, says the 26 per cent growth is due to two factors.
‘‘ People are looking for high peace in high pace, and so spas are opening in a wider variety of places because it is a concept that works in a variety of different locations.
‘‘ There’s also a global paradigm shift in order for people to cope with the challenges of modern life: inner health equals outward beauty.’’
In Torquay, Glasson says a few of her friends have followed her lead, selling in Melbourne’s Brighton and making a similar lifestyle change.
‘‘ Nowadays you can’t buy property here for under $ 1 million,’’ she says.
‘‘ It’s so nice to be away from the hustle and bustle and it’s such a relaxed atmosphere here.
‘‘ We wouldn’t move back now.’’
Change of scenery: Annie Glasson at Bell’s Beach on Victoria’s west coast. The beach is down the road from her new home.