Menswear store Master Debonair takes over historic namesake unit at Mackie's Corner

It was once famed for housing Sunderland’s first fashion shops, now Mackie’s Corner will be selling dapper looks once more with the announcement that a menswear store will open in the development.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 4:16 pm

The Hutchinson’s Buildings, which are colloquially known as Mackie’s Corner after its most famous resident Robert Mackie who could be seen making hats in the window, has undergone a huge restoration project to bring its collection of retail units back into use.

As part of the Victorian site’s renaissance, a number of independent creative businesses have already opened their doors including Black Door Hairdressing, Fat Unicorn deli, Bou-chique womenswear, Cafe 1851 and The Sweet Petite cake shop.

Now it’s been announced that Master Debonair has taken over the namesake corner unit.

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CEO of Master Debonair Simon Whitaker has taken over a unit in Mackie's Corner for his new store.

The brand has already built up a loyal following with its store in Station Terrace, East Boldon, but this branch is a special acquisition for Sunderland-born owner Simon Whitaker.

Speaking about his first venture in his home city, the businessman said: “My dad Bob used to work at Burton the Tailors in Sunderland, and my mam worked at Boots, so I was always in and out of the city centre growing up and I’m a big Sunderland fan.

"It’s always been a city close to my heart, but I felt it needed a level of investment. More recently, there’s been a hell of a vision for Sunderland, and now you can see that vision becoming a reality with all the activity in the city centre. It’s just what Sunderland needed.”

Built in the 1840s by local businessman Ralph Hutchinson, the Hutchinson’s Buildings were once a fashion hot spot and popular meeting place.

Simon's store, Master Debonair, will span two floors of menswear, as well as a private showroom

In more recent years, the buildings housed city institutions such as Chambers nightclub, but had been empty until they were bought by city property developer Henry Kirtley and daughter Alex.

The pair are renovating the Grade II-listed buildings to bring them back to their former glory and to house city businesses as part of the wider Historic High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ).

Bringing the buildings back to life complements the huge investments being made in the city centre, including the new £11m auditorium next to the Fire Station and the multi-million pound Riverside development on the old Vaux site which includes the new City Hall, as well as offices and residential areas.

Simon said he is keen for Master Debonair to doff its cap to the history of the site and is working with the existing Victorian features including the original coving and iron fretwork staircase.

The restoration work has uncovered some remarkably intact original features.

"It’s a fantastic site. Alex first approached me about Mackie’s Corner a couple of years ago and as I’ve seen the other traders opening I knew it was something I had to be a part of,” he said. “They’re all really hard-working independent businesses with the same work ethic and it’s great to see what they’re doing. I very much plan to work and collaborate with neighbouring businesses in and around Mackie’s Corner.”

The shop is undergoing refurbishment work, with a view to opening at the end of June. In the meantime, its sister stores in East Boldon and Chesterfield will open when non-essential retail is permitted on April 12.

The new shop will feature casual wear on the ground floor, with the upstairs selling formal wear, suits and shoes, as well as a private showroom for wedding parties and custom tailoring.

Simon says he’s confident business will pick up when shops can open and the Boldon store has already taken months of bookings for wedding parties.

CEO of Master Debonair Simon Whitaker has taken over the namesake corner unit where Robert Mackie used to make hats.

He said:"I think because of Lockdown people really appreciate independent businesses and will be shopping local more than ever.

"People will always use the likes of Amazon when shopping online for their commodities, but we have always been about the service and the experience primarily. They then come out feeling great in the clothes they wear.”

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An iron fretwork staircase has been uncovered.
This will be Simon's first venture in his home city.