16 February 2024

POP Canberra's 'crush confession' brought some extra love to the capital on Valentine's Day

| James Coleman
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The competition kicked off on Monday, and POP Canberra’s owner wasn’t ready for the flurry of messages. Photos: Screenshots, POP Canberra.

It was the outlet more than 3000 Canberrans had been waiting for.

Braddon gift store POP Canberra launched a Valentine’s-Day-themed competition on Monday, hoping to “spice Canberra up with a whole lot of extra love this week”.

Canberrans were invited to “share their secret crush story” with POP, which would then be shared anonymously on social media. The one with the most ‘love’ reactions and replies would win a “dream date” and a $250 gift voucher.

“Here is where it gets juicy,” the invitation, posted to POP’s Instagram account, read.

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“If your secret crush works out who they are, and they’re up to go on a blind date, we’ll shout you an all-expenses-paid five-star dinner and drinks at your restaurant of choice. And you’ll also get a trip for two in a drive-your-own Love Boat on Lake Burley Griffin. Annnnd we’ll give you some gifts to set the evening off right.

“So get writing lovers, share your heart with all of Canberra and finally make that first move!”

POP Canberra owner Gabe Trew wasn’t exactly ready for the “viral downpour of thousands of messages and emails”.

“I just had the idea that it would be really fun as a way to spread a bit of love and excitement for Valentine’s Day – to have people write in about their secret crush and see if we could make a match out of it,” he says.

POP Canberra owners

POP Canberra Operations Manager Christa White and founder Gabe Trew. Photo: POP Canberra.

The “outpouring of crush confessions” took many forms, from the “wholesome and heartfelt” to the “horny and outrageous”.

“We’ve had some standouts,” Gabe says.

“We had one fellow write in who actually met his self-proclaimed soul mate at POP Canberra – they were browsing the alcohol section together and got chatting about gin and developed this beautiful relationship and bought all their gifts from us. His husband was tragically killed in a car accident last year, and he placed POP cards and memorabilia at the funeral and thanked us for making ‘our love place’.

“It’s really heart-warming to see something as simple as a shop can actually be a real establishment where people make connections.”

POP Canberra shared the messages on Instagram. Photo: Screenshot.

Another genre among the submissions was “a lot of love for the older gentleman of Canberra”.

In her email, a 28-year-old woman admitted to having a “HUGE crush” on the mid-60s owner of the O’Connor post office.

“He’s so old-fashioned and abrupt and has dry and clever humour,” it read.

“He’s just really sexy in a buttoned-down kinda way. Many, many fantasies have occurred.”

Gabe says that when posted online, this message received about 40 replies along the lines of “Me too” and “Yes, he’s a dreamboat”.

The old man “who always walks his cocker spaniel around Hughes shops at 8 am” is also “dreamed about every day”, according to another message.

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Then there are others detailing “sordid and vexatious” affairs between members of the public and high-ranking officials, often sent in from fake email addresses and burner phones.

Over the course of the competition, which closed at 9 am on Thursday (15 February), several businesses also offered their services to whomever the chosen couple would be.

“The winner now has hundreds of dollars in different vouchers, a boat tour around the lake, accommodation – all sorts of things – and then if a marriage ever comes of this, we have photographers, celebrants, caterers, florists, designers and wedding venues all reach out. Even a jeweller, who has offered to donate the rings. It’s literally a community-funded wedding sitting, waiting to happen.”

The winning message. Photos: Screenshot, POP Canberra.

And the winner is in. It started as an email about a guy’s “huge crush” on a girl since he was seven years old, but he was struggling to find a way to tell her now they’re “deep into our 30s”.

Gabe offered to write a letter on his behalf, which the guy was so chuffed with he sent straight on to his crush. The rest, it seems, is history.

“I’ve brought these best friends together after 25 years – it’s really beautiful, and was definitely the most loved story on Instagram, with over 1000 replies,” Gabe says.

The couple were notified by email on Thursday, and the guy’s reaction sums it up.

“We met up and talked … we shared our first kiss yesterday, on Valentine’s Day. I feel like my entire world has changed. We are both so happy – and I just KNOW she is the one. If I ever pop the question, you’ll be the first to know. Maybe you can do our wedding speech?”

Gabe says the competition has given thousands the opportunity to “get what they need to off their chest”.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had as much screen time in my entire life. We’ll definitely have to keep it going.”

POP Canberra plans to release the remaining 2000 unread messages to their Instagram account via a video podcast in the coming days.

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