Drew and Annelies are the owners of Electric Mermaid Barber Shop in Brunswick Heads on the northern rivers of NSW. Over the last 12 months they have built a very fun, unique and passionate business that serves their local community with style and humour. These two along side their trusty dog Avalanche really make you feel warm and fuzzy and genuinely happy to be in their shop. Drew is the Barber who loves a chat and is passionate about surfing, art and music while Annelies is a fine art jeweller with her own wonderful and unique sense of style and humour. The Electric Mermaid Barber Shop has become a must visit location for some personal grooming and unique retail therapy when in the Byron Shire. The team at Electric Mermaid is Childe familia so we get to know their story a little more here...
Hi Drew and Annelies
Where are you from and how did you end up in beautiful Brunswick Heads?
A- I’m originally from Hobart Tasmania. I’m grateful to have grown up there and to have experienced the evolution of Tasmania’s unique art/creative scene. However, Drew and I are water people so after spending some time living in my hometown of Hobart, it was time to make the move to the northern rivers. There is a real similar vibe here compared to the community we had back in Tassie. For such a small town, Bruns is packed full of quality, independent businesses, cool cafes, amazing restaurants and the sensational Bruns Picture House.
D- I grew up in Brisbane and have spent most of the last decade living in the northern rivers minus a couple years studying a fine art degree in Tasmania and traveling. I missed the unique climate and the surf culture of the Byron shire, so I moved back and ended up in South Golden.
How did you come to start up the Electric Mermaid barber shop?
D- For a few years I have been toying with the idea of starting a barber shop but only if it had the right kind of architecture and a rad location. When that first COVID lock down started in 2020, things got strange, there was so much unknown. We would go for walks around Byron Bay, it was super dystopian, shops were just gutted. I realised that there has to be opportunity amongst all this chaos, and that’s when we found the shop for lease in Brunswick Heads.
A- Drew has always talked about wanting to open a barber shop. It’s was a case of perfect spot but terrible timing. When we signed the lease there was so much uncertainty with everything being locked down, nothing was open, all you needed was tumble weeds rolling down the streets to complete the scene.
How are you qualified to operate your small business?
A- I’ve spent the last 15 years working as a fine jeweller for high-end, independent businesses so I’ve seen the amount of hard work and dedication that goes into making a small business succeed.
D- I am literally just making all this up as I go.
Why is it called Electric Mermaid?
A- We brainstormed a long list of names with the aim of trying to make each other laugh.
D- Some on that list were Fishy wishy and the fishy style, Electric Laser Shark and also Cyber Shark Avalanche. It went on and on for weeks and then I just said fuck it, it’s called Electric Mermaid and that was that.
A- I think the name suits our personalities and the vibe of the shop. We find enjoyment in the absurd and the name has nothing to do with anything which I find entertaining.
What do you feel is unique about your store?
A- When you step inside the shop, you’re inside our brains.
D- We have unequivocally disregarded the cookie cutter barbershop style and created a sci-fi surf shack, where you can come in to have a rant, shred the space invaders arcade machine and experience a full on traditional barbering service.
What’s your special touch?
A- We strive for quality in all areas, from the products we sell to the high standard of barbering service. Also, Drew is an expert in talking shit, his skills know no bounds!
D- I just genuinely like talking to people about their lives whether they are out the front just cruising past or coming in for a trim, its lovely, there is a real community here.
How do you feel Electric Mermaid best serves the community of Brunswick Heads?
D- It offers an independent no bull shit approach to barbering and shopping.
When people leave, I want them to think wow how cool was that shop and feel all warm and fuzzy inside like they just visited their favourite eccentric friends.
A- It’s a meeting place where people from the community will bump into each other and share stories at the tiki bar over a beer.
Who are some of the interesting characters that visit you?
D- ha ha, too many to list, though for the last month this dude with a German Shepard comes in, gets on his soap box for his daily rant about space invaders or how he is going to start a ska band and then just bails.
A- The artists who perform at the Brunswick Heads Picture House are insanely talented and when they come into the store, I get super excited.
Any famous people that are regular customers?
D- Ozzy Wrong’s Mum is a regular, I can’t comment on the rest.
A- I am constantly blown away by the number of amazing musicians, artists, writers and creative thinkers who live locally and regularly visit the store.
What’s your favourite thing about your job and business?
D- All of the stories’ people tell me about their lives and what they do for a living. For example, a little while back a guy told me about how he has cancer, most probably from when he got agent oranged in the Vietnam war and then went on to become Terence McKenna’s bodyguard in the 80’s. I said holy moly are you going to write a book about your life? Turns out he had already written a draft and asked us to proofread it for him.
A- I get to spend all day doing what I love making jewellery while listening in on all the interesting conversations happening out the front in the barber shop.
What do you find the most difficult?
D- When drunk people come in and insist that I give their dog a haircut.
A- Explaining the concept of a walk-in barbershop to people that want to make an appointment.
What are your other interests, hobbies or artistic desires outside of the shop?
A-We’re always doing something creative or going on an adventure.
D- Surfing is always high on the agenda, a few beers and gig are also a love of mine. In the future I plan on putting on an epic art exhibition.
Tell us about your sculptures and art Drew – do you have a theme or common subject matter for your art?
D- The overshadowing theme is walking the tight rope between order and chaos in this human experience. Order is the mundane repetitious grind, it’s knowing the outcome before you do something, it is routine and no risks. Chaos is the unknown, it is quit everything, pull up the hand bake and do a U turn into darkness. Too much of either turns into an out-of-control spiral of regret and unfulfillment. I project this quandary in a 3-dimensional space where the viewer can not a avoid feeling a sense of unease.
Tell us about your jewellery Annelies – what inspires you and how do you define the style of your jewellery?
A- I’ve never forgotten the intensity of my childhood imagination, I was really into fables, mythology and dreams which influences my deigns today. My heroes were artists, when I realised that art was an actual career that a person could pursue, it’s all I wanted to do. Jewellery is the creative medium that has always keep me captivated. I was and still am obsessed with the idea of making the concepts in my imagination into objects. I also handmake fine jewellery for clients by commissions under my label Annelies Ellanora Jewellery. It is such an honour to create special pieces that are treasured mementos which become eternal heirlooms.
What made you decide to sell Childe Sunglasses at the barber shop
D- We first saw a Childe display when checking out boards at the old Dead Kooks store and thought man those retro styles mixed in with some Avant guard vibes and all plant-based frames are frekkin rad. When we went back to buy some the store had shut down or moved like many did due to covid, we couldn’t find them anywhere. Eventually we just decided to stock them in Electric Mermaid and reached out to Childe who were amped to put their big roadie case display in our shop.
What are your personal favourites in the sunglass collection?
A- My favourite style is the Vivid frame from the Bio-Acetate collection. I have two pairs; the crystal sand is my go-to everyday sunnies and I recently had my prescription lenses fitted to the Vivid gloss tort frames. I’ve never had so many compliments on my glasses before!
D- The Debaser’s because they are a fully Biodegradable and a contemporary spin on the classic aviator. I also love the Drummers which make me feel like I’m fit to pilot a flying saucer to mars.
What are the best sellers in Electric Mermaid?
D- The best seller in the Childe Wilde collection is the Treble translucent pink frames with the rose gradient lenes. The best way I like to describe them is that they are the shades you would be wearing if it was 1974 and you’re flying a planeload of cocaine from Columbia to Miami.
A- The Vivid crystal sand Bio-Acetate frames are a clear second.
Any words of advice for people looking to start their own small business?
D- I signed the lease for the Electric Mermaid shop in early May 2020, smack bang in the middle of that first wave of covid-19 in Australia. Do you remember that time, it was chaos, the future felt incredibly uncertain, and it definitely was not the best time to start a business? The truth is there is never going to be the perfect time to start something, you will always be able to say, “the timing isn’t good”, so I would say to people just rip the band aid off and start now.
A- Don’t follow what everyone else is doing, have your own vision and be passionate.
All photos thanks to @trevorkingphoto
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