Enterprising pair keen to help town

Sonia and Alistair Anderson with Dean Whitlie, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, in the new store.
Sonia and Alistair Anderson with Dean Whitlie, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, in the new store.

An enterprising couple have opened a new department store, creating jobs exclusively for people in their local community.

Sonia and Alistair Anderson have taken over the former Dewhirst Impressions site.

Sonia, who worked at the former clothing and home accessories outlet store, has overseen a major renovation of the 32,000sq ft site – renaming the shop Dewhirst Mill and adding a café named Olivia’s after their granddaughter.

The launch of the store has been backed by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, which provided merchant services, insurance and a £20,000 overdraft to support the set-up.

Now open, the day-to-day operations are being supported by a workforce recruited exclusively from the Ashington area. The shop also has space for local craftspeople to showcase and sell their products with four units being filled by small businesses selling cards, confectionary items, homemade bath bombs and cushions.

Sonia said: “Buying the premises provides us with the ideal opportunity to give back to the local community. Poor employment prospects has long been a problem in Ashington, with many people having to travel outside the area for jobs.

“Thanks to the support of Lloyds Bank, we hope that the new store will help local people find rewarding employment close to home.”

Dean Whitlie, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Sonia and Alistair have a brilliant vision and an honourable commitment to the community.”

“The bank is proud to be able to support them with this venture and I look forward to seeing the store thrive over the coming months.

“We’re dedicated to helping small businesses like Dewhirst Mill succeed, which is why we’ve pledged to grow our net lending by at least £1bn to SMEs every year until 2017.”