A hugely successful menswear store, which sells all over the world from its shop in East Boldon, has expanded as it enters a new chapter.
Since it was opened in 2016 by husband and wife team, Simon and Eve Whitaker, Master Debonair has gone from being a gamble by the couple to selling world-wide, having a multi-million pound turnover and employing a workforce of 32 people.
Now, in the biggest new development since they opened, they’ve taken over the neighbouring Gordon’s butchers in Station Terrace to expand their offering to meet demand.
Many of the original features of the Victorian building have been retained, including an old butchers’ rack, original ceiling and period hearth in the sympathetic renovation totalling £30,000. There’s even a hidden beer tap for shoppers to find as they browse the racks selling brands such as Marc Darcy, Skopes and Fratelli.
The expanded site, which officially opens tonight with a party for invited guests, marks phase 1 of the development, with phase 2, due to start in July, including a renovation of the upstairs rooms to include a private showroom and the space to sell women’s wear.
Simon and Eve were inspired to start the business by Simon’s late father, Bob Whitaker, who was always a sharp dresser and a photo of him now stands pride of place on the mantlepiece in the new shop.
“When we first opened we thought it would just be Simon in the shop with a cup of tea and a newspaper but it’s really taken off,” explained Eve.
“I don’t think people thought a menswear business in East Boldon would work, but it’s very much become a destination place with people coming from all over the country to visit the store. We knew we wouldn’t survive on passing trade.”
Speaking about what draws people to the village store, Eve said: “We’ve never been about labels, we’ve always been more about fit, price and style. Sometimes men think tailoring isn’t for them, but it’s great seeing them gain confidence from a piece that fits well.”
The new site has given the business the chance to stock more casual wear alongside the suits which helped them make their name. Another major addition is bigger changing rooms.
Eve explains: “In the original site we would have a 40-minute wait for changing rooms on a Saturday so being able to offer bigger changing rooms was really important. There’s also areas where people can sit and wait and charge their phones or just have a cup of coffee. We’re dog and kid friendly too, it’s a very sociable shop.”
Women coming into the shop with their partners has also led to the planned branch into women’s wear.
“We’ve been asked so many times about stocking women’s wear but we didn’t have the space before or the right supplier that fitted with the brand,” said Eve. “But the new development means we can do that in the future and we plan to stock blazers, shirts and brogues in the style of the men’s offering.”
The expanded East Boldon store follows the opening of a London branch last year in Spitalfields which has also proved successful.