During my first visit to Brisbane many moons ago, I asked a local geezer at a pub in New Farm about West End.
“That’s where they have all the hippies, smoking their incense and loving peace and shit,” he said.
I felt some of his facts were probably askew, but as it turned out, not by much.
In fact, so plentiful were the West End hippies, they gave rise to a unique collection of specialty boutiques catering to the alternative lifestyle.
The Westender spent an afternoon among the weird and wonderful with Andrea and Lachlan, owners of local weird emporia Crystal Earth, Ecclectica, and Atticus Finch.
Hi Andrea, how long have you and Lachlan been in West End?
We opened Crystal Earth in 2005. It will be 9 years in October.
Did you live in West End before opening Crystal Earth?
We didn’t, but we’d been doing the Green Flea Market (now Davies Park Market) for several years and we knew we wanted to open a business, and we knew West End was the only place we wanted the business to be.
Why only West End?
It’s the alternative energy of the place. It’s not mainstream by any stretch of the imagination. For us, coming from a more spiritual place, we were always really drawn to the river and the big beautiful trees.
Everything we do is guided. We do our own readings on our decisions. Everything we’ve done is from what our spirit has told us.
It seems to be guiding you pretty well. Coming up for 9 years – how has the place changed?
It has changed a lot. The nightlife has changed significantly. You get a lot of outsiders now, and unfortunately not all of them respect West End.
West End has always had a cosmopolitan feel during the day, but at night time it would be dead quiet. Now it’s different. There’s some great little bars, they are very cool.
What is the oddest thing you’ve seen?
Odd is our everyday. I have met the most amazing, bizarre, strange people here in West End. It has been fantastic – odd people are the thing that keeps me going.
The most important thing I’ve learned is never judge a book by its cover. Greet anybody who comes in just like anyone else, and you will get the most amazing stories out of the most unlikely people.
And what do you see in the future over the next 5 years?
We need to keep the ‘different’ side of West End alive. There’s a lot of change coming through, but West End can’t be all cafes at day and all bars at night. That would be really sad.
There’s a lot of development restrictions being lifted and you can see more and more buildings going up around West End. New people are coming in, and while it’s good to bring new people into the area, we don’t want the place to become sterile.
Being ‘different’ is what has made West End unique and desirable. Being ‘different’ is why people want to live here. We can’t lose that. We have to keep our unique feel, our unique look, our unique ways of living.
What would you recommend for people visiting West End who’d like a little more weird in their lives?
Come in and talk to us! We love meeting new people, so come in and say hello.