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City landmark smartens up its act

After being sympathetically restored to its original grandeur, Mackie's Corner is looking as dapper as the day it was built, thanks to a leading North East retailer.

City landmark smartens up its act

After being sympathetically restored to its original grandeur, Mackie's Corner is looking as dapper as the day it was built, thanks to a leading North East retailer.

A historic Sunderland building which was a pre-war staple of the city's high street is once again cutting it with the best, having attracted a Drapers award-winning retailer.

Master Debonair, which was founded by husband-and-wife duo Eve and Simon Whittaker back in 2016, may trace its roots back to East Boldon, but for CEO Simon, Sunderland has always been his home.

Master Debonair1

The pair founded the business in 2016 following the passing of Simon's beloved father, Bob, who they remember fondly as "being a real snappy dresser who always dressed to impress, be it on a weekend or in the office."

Master Debonair2

Originally setting up the business from home to sell pocket squares and lapel pins online, the pair have since gone on to record multiple milestones for what was an 'off the cuff' business idea, from winning industry recognised Drapers awards to opening showrooms in East Boldon and Chesterfield and selling to customers across the globe.

However, the pair's proudest moment to date came earlier this year when Simon - born and bred in Sunderland - was approached by the developer of one of the city's most cherished landmarks to take up a prime spot in the redevelopment of Mackies Corner

Despite originally turning down the offer, due to the pair's plans to expand the business outside of the North East and Derbyshire, Simon was struck by inspiration at the unlikeliest of times and finally decided the time was right to bring Master Debonair home to his beloved birthplace and the pair began writing the next chapter in their inspirational success story.

He said: "The family that is leading Mackie's restoration approached us way before most of the businesses had signed up for Mackie's Corner and at that time, it just wasn't right as we were looking at locations further afield. But I was cycling through the city last December and paused to look at the progress being made on the building, which was almost halfway through its renovation.

"I saw the infrastructure works going on across the city and I could see that a few other retailers had relocated to Sunderland, so I went on to read about the development work that was happening on the former Vaux site at Riverside Sunderland.

"I'm old enough to remember when the brewery was on there, and when I read about the investment that that was coming into the city, I decided maybe the time was right to return home and bring Master Debonair with me.

"Having studied in Newcastle when I was younger, I saw first-hand how developments such as the Millennium Bridge and Sage boosted the city's economy, and I can see real comparisons with the current works going on in Sunderland.

"From Mackie's Corner to the regeneration of the seaside, the improvements to road infrastructure and the thousands of jobs and homes being created on the Vaux site, there's a real buzz around the city and I just knew we had to be a part of it."

Situated directly under the lead dome, which houses Mackie's famous clock, Master Debonair's third store officially opened its doors to the public in August and has proven a real hit so far, providing a major boost to city centre footfall by drawing customers from across the North East and beyond.

"While there's no hiding from the fact that our high streets face huge challenges in the current climate, the repurposing of iconic buildings such as Mackie's Corner provide a fantastic opportunity for independent businesses like ours to return to prime locations in our city centres, which is something that would've been unimaginable for most small businesses a decade ago.

"A perfect example of this is just next door to us where the Sweet Petite often has queues stretching around the corner. We have the Fat Unicorn Deli serving up some of the finest produce the North East has to offer and CafĂ© 1851 providing the perfect destination for people to unwind and recharge their batteries after a day of shopping and exploring everything the city has to offer.

"We really feel as though this is a city on the up and we are looking forward to being part of something truly special here as the skyline continues to evolve."


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