Grinder Central is one of the creative businesses to open their doors in the former Hills bookstore in Waterloo Place, which has undergone a major refurbishment to transform it into a community hub.
Now called Hills once more, the once-beloved book shop is now home to a coffee shop, beauty studio, gallery space, artist studios and counselling room.
Grinder Central is one of the businesses to occupy the ground floor of Hills Art Centre. A sister site to the original Grinder in Durham Road, the new central coffee shop has given owners Michael Curtis and Riki Tsang the chance to expand their offering.
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Since opening the first site in September 2019, the partners have built up a loyal following thanks to their quality brews and cakes and pastries from local suppliers such as Bread& artisan bakery and Cinnabomb.
The first Grinder will remain in operation, but, at triple the size, Grinder Central has space for sit-in as well as its own kitchen facilities, meaning they can prepare more in-house dishes and increase the menu to include sandwiches, with some unusual options such as Nutella and chorizo and Nutella s’mores toasted brioche.
Michael says it’s fantastic to be part of a wave of investment in the city centre.
"I don’t think there has ever been as many changes in Sunderland as there are at the minute,” he said. “The high street hasn’t been in its best form in the past, but all the new developments are unlocking its potential.”
Speaking about why they chose to invest in a second site, Michael said: "The feedback we’ve had from customers is that a lot of them work in the city centre but walk to us in Durham Road to get a coffee, so would like something more centrally located. People have really supported us, especially in lockdown, and it’s allowed us to invest in Sunderland.
"The former Hills store is ideal and is a fully accessible site, which we don’t have at Durham Road.”
He added: “It’s actually a really large site, spread over three floors, so was too large for most retailers. However, a multi-purpose arts space is ideal.
"I remember coming here when I was younger for stationary, it was so well-known, so it’s great to see it being put to good use once more.”
Having two shops means Michael and Riki have been able to employ a team of six, including store manager Fiona Mullen, who work between the two sites.
As well as food and drink, the site also sells gifts from local supplier Man Drawer and will be increasing its range in the coming weeks.
The coffee shop will be ideally located when the new train station, set to bring more people to the city, opens. The Riverside development, as well as housing set to be built on the Civic Centre site once it’s demolished, is also set to get more people living and working in the city centre.
The arts centre has breathed new life into the former book store, which sold its last book in 2008.