Hippy Shop Insights

I have two modes of perfume. One is a probably toxic but beautiful and expensive-smelling French fragrance for when I need to front society. The other is an organic, aura-protective, and amazing one that nobody but me likes. It smells, apparently, like “one of those cluttered hippy shops.”

Pondering this observation bought about a Proust-style recall of these places.

Aside from the fact that “those cluttered hippy shops” are more likely to reek of Nag Champa, Dreamweed and Patchouli, why the clutter?

What Killed The Hippy Shop?

It is probably a historical question. The classic hippy shop is near dead.

What killed it?

The Minimalist Vibe – Teetering shelves full of oriental bling and occult trinkets make sense when you have brought them in by the container but the contemporary new age aesthetic is barer. It’s more Goop and Moon Juice than a bazaar with weird esoteric books and Johfra Bosschart astrology art.He, by the way, was a Sagittarius who made a fortune off his astro art – see above image – but really wanted to be appreciated for his darker and more complex works. Just looking at his work makes me smell Nag Champa and his zodiac pieces contributed to the Seventies’ astrology revival

Expensive rents – Many hippy shops were run by enthusiasts who wanted a job or retail business where they could work stoned and do the I-Ching all day. A place where dogs could sleep under a crystal skull display and nobody cared if they forgot about their tie-dye woad experiment soaking in the cauldron. The landlord was ideally your weed dealer and you could lurk quietly up the back of a mall next to the marital aids shop.

Geopolitics And Modern Awareness – Charging into cute little Kasmir or Afghan villages to buy up their fabulous bedspreads and glass bead things is no longer the relaxed or even decadent experience that it was when people like the Edina Monsoon character in Ab Fab did it in the olden days. It’s not just the possibility of starring in a terrorist hostage video – Fair Trade has also stopped them swooping around buying up goods at exploitative prices.

Big Biz Hippy Franchises – Even before Serenity Signalling was a thing and everybody became a coach or a channeler, franchises like Tree of Life saw the potential of applying chain-store logistics and efficiency to the zone formerly left to Seventies/Eighties aspirant spiritual initiates. The Internet was also undoubtedly a culprit.

But if experiential retail is the only way forward for discretionary shopping, why not revive the old style of hippy shop? Not the exploitation but a dark, maze-like labyrinth of menstrual maps and synthetic strawberry scent that only an alien would think real. Dragon’s Blood, henna, and bags of mystery dust with lofty claims.

It would work if it was authentic. Like you tried to buy a Tarot card deck and got into a detailed dialogue about some arcane symbol.


64 thoughts on “Hippy Shop Insights”

  1. There is a new breed of “haute hippy” shop that seems to be thriving — check out The Rock Store in Toronto i.e. — because I think people’s interest in this stuff is only growing. And if you’re really into it, you’re probably not going to go online to intuitively rummage through crystals. But it’s definitely a sterilized version. No ointments, unctures, potions but they do sell huge wands of Mugwort for smudging.

  2. I worked in one of these stores from 1990 – 95… it was called Jungle Fever in Adelaide. Gosh, I was such a child back then…would often sit out the back behind the beaded curtain severely hung over and drink all of the guarana shots!!

  3. Elizabeth Street Arcade in Brisbane in the 70’s. Leather & timber shoes, exotic fabrics, handmade mushroom silver earrings and bracelets and heady scents. Loved this retreat from work ! Great post MM.

  4. How did I miss this blog post? These are such great theories that they should be in published in the Lancet. And this post has inspired me to hippy it up in my art as well as my corporate practice. Thanks Mystic x

  5. An ex BF, from a well-heeled family opened a little bookstore/chemical supply- in my uni town- in which I happily worked- reading the day away.

    Astro charts, (he had a computer and Astro programs!) alchemy, tarot, Theosophists (quite racist-classist) I read it all.

    The city inspector blanched at the chemicals stored and made ex BF them move off site- said they could have caused quite the conflagration.

  6. There was a beautiful one in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy… I can see the sign with a spiral on it. They sold books, candles, crystals, dream catchers, incense, scarves and cushions from India and Asia, herbs, tarot cards and other stuff. It had a very feminist flavour as well. Long closed. But in Williamstown we have a longstanding hippy shop owned by a Wizard where you can get tarot and psychic readings, and another one with spiritual books and CDs, candles, crystals, incense, singing bowls, buddhas etc, plus angel paraphernalia and really good and inexpensive essential oils. The owner is an older lady (probs a witch) who had a serious illness and made a promise that she would supply essential oils at bargain prices so everyone could access them. Oh, and so many flavours of soap, and a strange christian room full of religious statues and knick knacks (guardian angels etc.)

    1. I remember that Brunswick Street store, I used to go there nearly every day when I first moved to Melbourne. Closest thing to it around here now id that crystal store on Lygon Street…I hope it survives the gentrification…
      Will definitely go and check out that Williamstown store xx

      1. the essential oil one with the spiritual lady is called (weirdly) Back to Basics. the other one is interesting but I get a weird vibe from the wizard.

  7. There’s still one in Springfield NSW – called New Age Market but actually nicknamed the Hippie Shop – that I visit whenever I get the urge to go to the Blue Mountains. It’s dark/lit with lamps inside, smells of incense and is totally ‘packed with teetering shelves of oriental bling and occult trinkets’….https://www.yelp.com.au/biz_photos/the-hippy-shop-springwood. Real estate is probably cheaper out there…
    Reminds me of my adolescence/early teens…ahh, Neptune on my Sun in Sagg….Horses, adverture, universal love, optimism….Pegs, if you’re out there, you’d remember that too….

    1. Totes – same here. Plus I can’t do sage-witchery unless I want the entire fire dept to arrive at my door. (Come to think of it…) xx

  8. One hippy shop started when a fellow uni student began selling her handmade hippy clothes along with other various items. Perhaps not as multidimensional as the ones run by ‘oldheads’ but still fun and independent. Then she decided to start a cafe in the same spot and the goods slowly dwindled. Now it is an upscale ‘hip’ restaurant and the owners rather snobbish. Gotta keep up with the Joneses.

    But the one I really loved was run by pagan sisters and totally random. They called water “nature’s champagne” and had treasures around every corner and a WALL of giant jars of herbs. Once my SO and I did mushrooms in the woods and to prepare he made this tea to enhance the experience. The guy who helped us with our herbal shopping list just raised his eyebrow, gave us a knowing stare, and filled the order. Those were the days.

  9. Ha! The expensive rents bit. Perfectly describes the shops I’ve loved. Thankfully the Pacific Northwest still has quite a lot of these shops, and I think, with fewer exploitative trinkets.

    One of my favorite local ones did close this year but there are still two goods ones near me that carry locally made artisan jewelry, apothecary potions and herbs, and candles in addition to the esoteric books, tarot card decks and dragon figurines. And all of the First Nations spiritual items like sweetgrass for smudging and medicine bags and whatnot are also made by local medicine persons and artists.

    Vancouver Island has a thriving locally made artisan community as well as being an enclave for former draft dodging hippies who now drive their grandchildren to the farmers market in their hybrid cars. So we have the best of both hippy vibes and supporting local and indigenous artists and witches. And the aesthetic is less Far East beaded baubles and tie-dye, more Westcoast/beachy/outdoorsy. Native carved pieces, cedar smudge sticks, candles that smell like ocean and wands carved from driftwood. It’s pretty great.

      1. It’s the best. I’ve only lived here 2 years but I have embraced it as my true home. I do not miss the part of the country where I lived my first 40 yrs at all. I should’ve made the move 20 yrs ago. You should come!

  10. Lux Interior Is My Co-Pilot

    There are a few still around in my area (cheap rents!) but the tat has gotten more and more mass produced. I do like the odd bags of mystery dust and witchy herbs tho.

  11. A genius anthropological analysis, Mystic! I also almost wet myself laughing at the “expensive rents” bit. By the way, I visited one of the last dinosaurs, an intensely tacky hippy shop (which calls itself “an esoteric bookshop” but books make up only 20% of its merchandise) in my city a couple months ago. Everything seemed to be exactly the same as when I last went in there at age 15 (early 2000s). The name of the “bookshop”? THE ZODIAC

  12. Chantilly Place in Goolwa (near the mouth of the Murray River) is still a jam packed incense soaked hippy shop. I burn incense as it gives me a sense of being at home wherever I go.

  13. Hah, I had one of these shops for nearly ten years and loved it, a few life changes saw me changing direction. One of my massage therapists told me that when she got home her little daughter would sniff her and pronounce happily that she “smelled like The Key” (shop name). Yes! that heady blend of Nag champa, Hari Om, whatever it is that customs sprays on fabric goods shipped from India, Krishna Musk perfume – which I love to this day and beeswax candles. And so much more. On line shopping was a big thing in the demise of some of these shops for sure, but I still think if you are present for your customers and keep true to your business you can probably hang in there. Every one is looking for connection. Am considering re-opening next year after an 8 year break.

    1. Yes, everyone predicted the end of bookstores, but the good ones – the ones that reach out to their customers, diversified (or conversely, doubled down on a niche offering), and truly love books – those ones have survived and thrived. Why not the hippy shop?

    1. Oh yes, a place called Smells Like Spells just recently opened in my city and it’s like a modern, hipster, minimalistic-aesthetic take on the same old hippy shop! And there’s a DOG at all times, just like Mystic described! Haha. They sell handmade candles: aromatherapy for muggles and magickal ritual candles for the witches. A perfect Uranus in Taurus local indie retail example?..

  14. Last time I popped into one of these in Perth (Scotland) I walked out with the most amazing moonstone pendant and I’ve not removed it since. And it constantly receives praise from all I meet and you know half of those these days are pretty well off. Simple beautiful moonstone catches the eye of everyone.

  15. When I was a teenager in the late 80’s, it was all about the hippy shop, op shops and reminiscing about my mum’s exotic earrings, patchouli and beautifully embroidered Kurda tops.
    I was all a bit grunge, a bit hippy and in love with Crystals.
    I always missed it amidst all the minimalism that followed.
    But, there is a labyrinth of a magic store that sells all things hippy and magic in the north of Melbourne and every time I walk in there, every sense of my being crackles with being in the midst of the magic of it all. It’s the true hippy shop, amazing tarot and readings, crystals wands, mag champa etc and an amazing clairvoyant.

  16. aethetic structure theory
    -In the 70’s, while all the exploration was exploding in esoteric, spritual knowledge, etc most people would still admit then that they had no fuqing clue what they were doing. hippy shops were kinda like some version of a teens bedroom – cluttered, non cohesive, ‘messy’ to the outsider’s eye, but ask where something is, or say a few vague words and the proprietor need only point in a direction without looking up from their version of navel gazing. (less of course they wanted to actually talk to you…or woo you…or frighten you…ahaha.)

    Nowadays, along with what Mystic mentioned above about chain stores, and minimalism + every other person having some direct feed to a celestial being that just so happens to want to also talk to you but can’t because you ‘haven’t done the work’ to connect.
    Is that the aesthetics of such suggest that ‘ooo we have this down now, we know what works’
    Everything you could possibly need is here and conveniently non-cluttered, trackable (in-store and by origin.), essential and totally for you (‘but only if you’re vibing with it, don’t force it y’know.?)

    I say this for amusement and not a condemnation. That teen-room store from the 70’s is nowadays the same thing, only public. it’s that teens’ living room now and that teen is now between 30-45 hoping (or just believing) they’re plugged into the right new economical spritual-grow downloads.

  17. I was just thinking of heading over to my local hippy shop this afternoon! We are lucky enough to still have a pretty cluttered one nearby that me and my Aquarius 8 year old son love to visit! We’ll probably leave my Capricorn husband home haha.

  18. Thankfully there are a couple of these left yet they are few and far between. If a hippy shop isn’t a cluttered labyrinth I usually don’t stay as long or buy as much. It’s like a home for my senses. I’ve had some amazing experiences in different ones all over the country. I’ve found the ones off the beaten track are the best and most legit. Having said that there are also some cool online sources although you really do need to do your research. I think what may have killed some stores is people’s complex interests and not keeping up with demand. The best ones seem to source a lot of different things from the basic incense, tarot and crystals to tomes on voodoo, shamanic wisdom, asatru, Hinduism etc.

    As for the perfume – I totally get it. I love all natural fragrance and I’m a patchouli lover from way back. However, I still do have some classic French perfumes I can’t let go of. Sacré bleu!

  19. What you descrides is not dead here in the US, still very much alive in many towns Even ine in my little town of 8,000 people

  20. Ahhh the tiny town where I went to college in an ancient, leafy Wordsworthian part of the UK had one of these shops. Squeezed in between rows of tea shops, it was colourful, tacky, cheap, reeked of Nag Champa and was run by some geezer who I think was the local drug dealer. He would come on to all the young idealistic wannabe-hippie girls. I absolutely loved it.

    1. I’m sure there are still some in Cornwall / Devon and Brighton.
      Cape Town centre was – and I think to some extent still might be, give or take the odd corporate coffee chain no locals can afford anyway basically a series of these. I remember the guy you meantioned too! Between the amethest distplay and the T Lobsang Rampa books. I used to henna my hair and reek of Nag Champa. I always got weed from the resident rastafarians and had mixed emotions about the obligatory shirtless dreaded dude you were at school with and before he became permanently attached to a huge bongo drum let you copy his math homework.

      1. This guy was a suburban pretender kind of dude who couldn’t believe his luck that there was not more scrutiny of his ‘exploring connections’ with girls not yet old enough to vote. I often wonder what happened to him.

  21. I feel for Johfra – he also had Jupiter-Neptune in Leo and this huge artistic vision – but he is so tied to the Zodiac pics. Hit the link for his other work and tell me what you think?! It’s wild – he even features Abraxas in there.

    1. Sadly I don’t seem to be able to get the images to come up for me. Is there something I can google to get the Abraxas pic Mystic?

      1. It is just a big page with heaps of images so you are either on a slow connection or have your browser set to not load them or beyond a certain size. You could google image search the artist and it will prob come up though!

  22. The only local hippy shop I like is mostly incense and ornaments, run by a charming man who makes his own divine essential oil blends.

    The one I can’t abide is full of dodgy products – mislabelled and dyed polished rocks masquerading as turquoise and lapis, incense full of synthetics, smudge sticks made with endangered plant materials ripped from native lands, and wildly overpriced mass-produced statuary. Blech!!

    I’d rather source my magic materials from the farmers market (oil, honey for enchantments), or grow my own (herbs for spells, rose petals to make rosewater), or use found objects (rock people and gum leaves for smudge sticks), or buy at the grocery store (salt and wine for offerings).

    And when I want statues or special things, I buy online from trusted suppliers.

  23. For those in Melbourne, Chakra in Acland Street, St Kilda is quite a good hippy shop. Oils, patchouli, statues, clothing, crystals, Tibetan ornaments, furniture and more.

  24. I loved a place called Hang Up in late 70s early 80s. It completely satisfied my eclectic interests of incense, velveteen and patchwork handbags, strawberry perfume, incense, feather earrings, sci-fantasy postcards and books AND old movie posters!! Bliss! Blah to the minimilast lines of metal, grey and white that replaced these shops and were a precursor to the digital age. Hippy shops reflected the texture of life…the hands on age of analogue times. Imagine my delight when I stopped at Woodstock upstate NY a couple of years ago…hippy shops galore!

  25. I have 4 and there is always something that calls me in. Whispers “Labradorite” or something sparkles at me. I have loads of hippie scent too

  26. Thankfully we’ve got versions of these still alive and thriving in LA. You walk in and feel like you’re transported into another time (and like you’re catching a contact high from something you can’t put your finger on).

    Mystic, you might have a look at the House of Intuition brand as an example of what the evolution of the hippy shop could be. Founded by two Chicanas, crystals, incense and esoteric books galore – all ethically sourced, or at least messaged as such – they’ve gone from one store to four, while managing to modernize the experience but still have it feel like it’s tapping into some good juju.

    1. Yes, HOI is wonderful! And Spellbound Sky for crystals… Mystic, if you came to LA you’d flip your wig over the assortment of crystal shops, aura photographers, and spell purveyors. It’s truly brilliant. And one of my fave examples is called CRYSTAL FANTASY in Palm Springs, complete with tarot/palm readers who’ll hook you up for a $20 donation. THE BEST.

  27. Ughhhhh I LOVE hippy shops. Mystic you have described them so perfectly {insert whole row of heart emojis} I think you’ve captured the factors in their decline perfectly but I have FAITH that they still exist, in some side street arcade not renovated since it was built in 1984, staffed by a moderately uninterested man with a 3 day old pony tail, in his late 40s who smells faintly of patchouli (?possibly) and can point you in the direction of the tarot books pretty well, kind of the opposite of say the staff in a Pharmacy (drugstore) who bound up to you full of knowledge and purpose, asking HI HOW CAN I HELP YOU when you’re literally standing in front of the tampons lol
    I used to always stumble across them eventually in every town or wherever I lived (hippy shops, not pharmacies but hey), and instantly became a regular

    1. Did you ever notice how spectaculary UN healthy everyone who sold any kind of health products looked?
      Oh god and the unkempt toenails in the less attractive cousin of Birkinstocks?
      I’m so mean! But birkenstocks were’t really a thing in Cape Town until Pigeon and Andre came back from San Fransisco.. Wow. I’m time travelling. I used to drop acid with Pigeon 🙂

    2. yes – there is a sub-post here – the Seven Types Of Esoteric Shop Staff You Meet – the ponytail patchouli guy who opines about Aleister Crowley, the edgy henna lady talking about what the catholic church did to Mary and the witches, the Tantrically orgasming astral nomad with the rainbow kaftan…

      1. Lol. I was a receptionist once at a holistic ‘clinic’ that had all of those. Plus the Professor Trelawny type who wandered out of the treatment room saying the angels told her to try the tarot deck in the upper-left front desk drawer instead of the one she was using, the fresh-faced, white-lab-coated, woman who ran the colonics machine as if it was a spa-treatment, the real-deal, spine-tinglingly powerful, actual witch from Romania and the serenity-signalling, shadow-denying, power-tripping, narcissist owner.

  28. Ah I used to love shops like this. There is one close ish to me and I’m probably due a visit. Can’t help but think that things like Health & Safety and insurance regulations also contributed to putting most of these out of face to face Biz

    1. Also, floor to ceiling merchandise means less money to have to spend on the actual fitout because all surfaces are Covered with wares

      (Oops sorry! I was trying to reply to my own comment haha

  29. Aw, this is making me miss something I never properly experienced in the first place. It sounds part shop, part art installation, part time travel. I think the engineered explosion of housing/property/rents by greedy pollies are the culprits too. Yes, that was the reason the lovely hippy shop in my old area closed down, but also, it was the kind of suburb where ladies in their 60’s wearing diamonds would shoplift from the organic shop next door. Irate red-faced seniors would come in and state on one hand that all this stuff was bull and they knew it, but also the antique African mask they bought two weeks back was wreaking havoc in their life and local energy healer better fix the problem!! Entitlement is a community killer!

  30. I loved those shop. I haven’t been down Byron for awhile but that was the place for hippy shops. The new shops just don’t have the same smells and feel. So love to open one up

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