Retail grand design ready for business

Whosit & Whatsit founder Naomi Atkinson in the building during the refurbishment.
Whosit & Whatsit founder Naomi Atkinson in the building during the refurbishment.

A designer from Morpeth is looking forward to challenging traditional retail models after giving a historic building a new lease of life.

Naomi Atkinson set up her own business in 2010 and her experiences in the industry gave her the idea to set up an innovative outlet that will support and give exposure to independent designers.

And all the hard work has paid off as Whosit & Whatsit (W&W) will be opening on December 1.

It will be located at 46 Sandhill on Newcastle’s quayside, which had been empty for a number of years.

Naomi has worked with a range of big-name brands during her career, including Red Bull and hotel chain Le Meridien, and gone abroad on numerous occasions to speak at design and web conferences.

Explaining her new venture, she said: “I noticed that quite a few great independent designers were selling within the industry or just online, so I felt there was an opportunity to set up a retail space that will give the general public access to stunning products they may not find otherwise.

“Everything you see, sit on, drink from or interact with at W&W can be bought.

“In addits a much bigger percentage of sales than they would get from big companies and we can be flexible with our stock and arrangements, so they don’t have to make things in bulk.

“The products we have are items for yourself, your home or your office.

“They include clothing, hand-made furniture, prints and other artwork, greetings cards, wallets and hand-printed cushions.”

Before it was empty, the building was a food outlet known as Sevenhills. The ground floor housed a take-away, the first floor was a restaurant and an industrial-sized kitchen filled the entire second floor.

Naomi and her team secured it in July 2013 and the lease was signed at the end of June this year.

She said: “It required a huge amount of electrical and plumbing work. We had to strip away what was there before and completely start over.

“Although it took a bit longer than we would have liked, we’re delighted with the end result and working with the city council, we’ve been able to showcase the beauty of the building, which was built in the 17th Century.”

The renovation was carried out mainly through personal investment, with the rest of the funding sourced from a crowd-funding campaign.

The 32-year-old, who is a former Chantry Middle School and King Edward VI School student, did a degree course at Northumbria University before moving to live and work in London.

She worked for an advertising agency and a branding agency, but after a few years she wanted more freedom and missed the North East so she decided to move to Newcastle to start her own business.

“It meant I was able to work one-on-one with clients and it has gone really well – the bonus being that I’m able to see my family in Morpeth more often,” she added.

For more information about the new outlet, visit