Seachang­ers earn their keep

For­sak­ing city life for the coastal cul­ture opened busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for one for­mer Melbourne cou­ple, An­nie Reid re­ports

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Landmarks -

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.

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