New lease of life planned for South Shields first supermarket

It’s sad to think that so many of our iconic old buildings have been lost to the bulldozer.
How the building looked in 1975.How the building looked in 1975.
How the building looked in 1975.

So it’s good to hear that one local landmark, here in South Shields, has been saved, and is about to be given a new lease of life.

The building, which stands on the corner of Fowler Street and Kepel Street, not only housed the town’s first supermarket, it also served as a popular shoe shop for many years.

Riddicks store p[ictured in 2014.Riddicks store p[ictured in 2014.
Riddicks store p[ictured in 2014.
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Now the towering building, former home of Hintons and Riddicks Shoe Shop (on the ground floor level and Racks Snooker Club on the upper floors) has been earmarked for new office use.

Under the proposals, rubber stamped by South Tyneside Council last month, the vacant building is set for a huge revamp, including repairs, a new two-storey rear extension, a new lift shaft and external works.

Many readers will remember when Hintons moved into the grand old building in the 1950s – a space originally built for high-end green grocers Miller & Co around 1907

People, of course, were long since used to doing their shopping in small, compact local stores, most of them situated on the corner of streets.

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There you would find shops selling everything you needed. So the arrival of the “new fangled” supermarket, albeit being tiny in comparison to today’s vast superstores, must have been a real novelty to the shopper used to popping in and out of the butchers, the greengrocers, the hardware store or even the local Co-op.

Hintons not only traded in Fowler Street, they had another branch at The Nook.

News that the old building will remain standing, was welcomed by many of the Gazette’s online readers, though some would have preferred a different use.

According to a design and access statement, developers aim to reopen the building as an office hub.

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Part of the statement reads:“The client is committed to the long-term stewardship of the building and see this project as an opportunity to maximise the potential of this heritage asset.”

Craig Lister took to Facebook to say: “Just passed it the other day and said to myself I wish they would do something with this building. But an office? I was hoping for a shop, maybe a Waterstones. We need more shops not more offices. Glad it’s being used for something and it’s going to be restored. But I’m struggling to see the logic behind it when there are so many empty offices in South Shields already.”

Leanne Cummings added: “As long as it’s getting used it’s better than it being another empty run-down building. Hopefully the offices will actually be used rather than doing it out for no reason.

“My only worry is that there’s loads of empty offices all the way up Fowler Street which have been empty for years, why would this be any different?

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“Maybe a shop on the bottom and offices upstairs could be a better option? As someone else has suggested maybe a book shop?”

Donna Watson took to social media to say: “Glad its going to be used again rather than sitting derelict” while Mark Flett proclaimed “keep the architecture!”.

His sentiments were echoed by Anthony Fyall who said: “At least it’s going to be renovated. Retail is dying, need to look at alternative uses for buildings especially those on the outskirts of towns” while Nikola Hunter posted: “Great to see it’s not completely going to waste and it’ll serve a purpose for a business. However, I don’t see this helping bring visitors or trade into the town.”

Steve Hedley declared: “Great to hear they are keeping some of the older buildings and renovating rather than demolishing” and Angela Harrison posted “great idea in a fab location. Better to revamp and reuse than just knock it down”.