See inside stunning new Master Debonair shop as it brings 'something completely different' to Sunderland
From its red changing rooms with ‘Peep Show’ neon sign to its private showroom complete with its own bar, Master Debonair is certainly cutting a dash as it opens its first Sunderland store.
After building up a loyal following at their first store in East Boldon, with a sister store in Chesterfield, the menswear retailer has opened their third site in Sunderland city centre as part of the ongoing renaissance of the historic Mackie’s Corner.
Not only is it a real labour of love for Sunderland-born Simon Whitaker and wife Eve, who run the store together, it’s also a fitting new chapter for the building which was home to the then town’s very first fashion stores in the 1840s, later becoming a unit for hat maker Robert Mackie who became so well known that, despite the buildings officially being called Hutchinson’s Buildings, it became affectionately known as Mackie’s Corner.
After a five month total refurbishment of the corner unit, which saw builders work with and restore the existing period features, Master Debonair will welcome its first customers from 10am on Friday, August 27.
As well as occasion wear from brands such as Marc Darcy, Skopes and Fratelli on the first floor, the shop has a casual range from brands such as Blend and Farah on the ground floor. It caters for all sizes, from a 34in chest up to 60in, with an on site tailoring service for tweaks.
Simon said he was delighted to be opening a store in his home city, a move which has created five jobs whilst also helping to boost the flourishing independent business scene in the city.
"I first saw this site two years ago and knew it was the perfect fit for Master Debonair, it’s such a stunning building and it’s been a phenomenal project to work on,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to open in Sunderland and actually first looked at a site in Newcastle Road four years ago. It’s incredible to see it all come together, we’re bringing something completely different to the city.”
The menswear store is the latest to open in Mackie’s Corner, which has become a hub of creative businesses in recent months with openings such as Fat Unicorn deli, Bou-chique womenswear, The Sweet Petite cake shop, Cafe 1851 and Black Door Hairdressing.
Simon says he feels proud to be part of a burgeoning scene which is breathing new life into the city centre.
"I’ve never known local businesses support each other like they do here,” he said. “It’s becoming a real community for independents and you can see more and more footfall in this area, it’s coming back to life and it’s a really exciting time in Sunderland.”
Master Debonair has always been about the experience, rather than just shopping, and Simon is encouraging people to pop in, even if they don’t make a purchase.
He said: “There’s so much to look at, it’s not just about the product. Just come in and have a look at the building, the design, the lighting. We’re really looking forward to having people through the doors.”
The rebirth of Mackie’s Corner
Built in the 1840s by local businessman Ralph Hutchinson, the Hutchinson’s Buildings were a popular shopping destination that housed some of Sunderland’s first fashion shops.
In later years, the buildings housed city institutions such as Chambers nightclub and Sweet Home Alabama sweet shop, however, the Grade II-listed building fell into disrepair during the late 20th century and from the early 2000s many of the units had lain derelict, a ghost of its former self.
Fortunately, local property developers, the Kirtley family, decided to take on the challenge of breathing new life into Mackie’s corner, purchasing the property in 2017.
Their bold vision was to return Mackie’s Corner to its roots by redeveloping the site as a mixed commercial property with multiple retail outlets and office spaces.
Historic England and Sunderland City Council supported this ambitious redevelopment project with a grant of £350,000 through Sunderland Heritage Action Zone’s Partnership Grant Scheme.
Over the past year, this financial support has paid for essential repairs to the outside of the building including stonework, windows, beautiful new shop fronts, as well as the lead dome, which houses Mackie’s famous clock.
Further works are being undertaken by the Kirtley family to bring the whole building back in to use.
The restoration marks an important milestone for the on-going success of the wider Sunderland Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) initiative, which aims to rejuvenate the historic city centre.