Tag: kirtley co

From strength to strength – Sunderland gym joins forces with Kirtley Co to open new site

Posted on by Alex Kirtley

Facilitated by Kirtley Co, Joe Arrowsmith is preparing to move his growing fitness business into new premises next month.

Following a successful first year of business, Joe Arrowsmith is set to move his renowned strength and conditioning gym into a brand new facility – formerly occupied by his friend and fellow gym-owner, Richie Hood.

Joe, a former electrician from Sunderland, decided to switch careers a year ago in hopes of succeeding in the fitness industry. Soon after, he secured a unit in Ashbrooke Sports Club, Sunderland, and set up his own gym – ARROW Strength and Conditioning.

In just 12 months, the gym, which helps members reach their fitness goals through exercise classes and group training sessions, has reached maximum capacity with between 60 and 70 members – motivating Joe to search for bigger premises.

From January next year, ARROW Strength and Conditioning will be moving into Kirtley Co’s Leechmere Industrial Estate, from which Joe will be focusing his efforts on improving the gym’s offering and opening it up to a greater number of Sunderland’s fitness fans.

The unit – which stretches an impressive 6,000 square feet – has been occupied by Performance Fitness Centre for just shy of a decade.

Founded and ran by Richie Hood, the multi-functional training space is home to state-of-the-art training equipment, a top-class exercise studio and more – all of which have helped it earn its reputation as Sunderland’s number one independent fitness centre.

Now, with an aim to travel down new paths, develop new skills and spend more time with his family, Richie has made the decision to close his business and pass his unit on to Joe – who he met through training, when Joe was just 20 years old.

The team at Kirtley Co ensured a smooth handover and in the coming weeks Joe will be working hard on making the space his own, before opening the doors of ARROW Strength and Conditioning’s new home to the public and existing members on January 2nd.

Commenting on the takeover, Joe said: “The move to Leechmere marks a new and exciting phase of growth for ARROW Strength and Conditioning and I’m delighted to inherit a training space that has meant so much to Richie and proved to be so successful.

“It’s a great feeling to have been handed the reigns and to be given an opportunity to make it my own.

“Richie wanted to pass the unit on to someone he trusts and I’m determined to carry on what he started all those years ago – a warm and friendly place, filled with community spirit, loads of support and a great atmosphere. An inclusive and non-intimidating gym, where everyone is made to feel welcome.

“I’ve taken ownership of Richie’s existing gym equipment, so all of that will remain, along with space for personal training and classes. Our old site only allowed for classes of eight, so to be able to offer existing members more room and more availability – along with more freedom to try new things on the gym floor – is fantastic.

“I also plan on refurbishing the on-site coffee shop and building a mezzanine floor for martial arts in the near future, as well as growing the team over time.

Richie, who has worked in the fitness industry for 20 years, said: “It’s never easy to walk away from something you love and have worked hard for, but it feels like the right time to start a new chapter and move on – and I know I’m leaving the site in good hands.

“Joe has the same dedication, energy and passion for the industry as I did when I was starting out and I’m sure he’ll do great things.

“When we met, I had just move into the unit, shortly after having my first child. Now 10 years later, Joe is moving his business into the same building, after having hisfirst child. Our parallels between our professional and personal journeys are so similar – and I wish him luck for the future.

Alex Kirtley, MD at Kirtley Co, added: “It’s been a pleasure working with both Richie and Joe and we look forward to welcoming ARROW Strength and Conditioning to our Leechmere site in 2024.

“Richie has been a brilliant tenant – and now a friend – for the last 10 years, growing from a small unit to one of our biggest at Leechmere. He’s enjoyed a hugely successful career and it’s fantastic to now see Joe paving the way in his new and growing venture from the same space.”

ARROW Strength and Conditioning, Unit 5, Leechmere Industrial Estate, Carrmere Road, SR2 9TW. For more information, contact Joe on 07722 024720

Bringing zen to Mackie’s Corner

Posted on by Alex Kirtley

Local yoga teacher, Louise Edwards, has opened the doors of her first independent yoga studio, Studio by YOTN, inside Sunderland’s historic Mackie’s Corner.

With January just around the corner, Louise Edwards is preparing for what she hopes will be a flourishing first full year of business – at a time when improving health and wellbeing is at the top of many people’s resolutions lists.

A qualified yoga teacher with nearly a decade of experience, Louise was one of eight new tenants to move into Sunderland’s iconic Grade II listed landmark, Mackie’s Corner, this autumn.

Her unit is one of 16 new creative workspaces – together known as ‘The Co.llective’ – designed and built by Sunderland-based developer, Kirtley Co, as part of a multi-million action plan to restore the much-loved site.

After years spent teaching yoga on a freelance basis and on the side of a full-time job, Louise, who hails from Washington, decided to embark on a self-employed journey and set up her own venture – Studio by YOTN.

She joined forces with Kirtley Co, who were on the lookout for a wellness business to join Mackie’s Corner, and officially opened for business, with an aim of creating a relaxed, comfortable and inclusive space for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the benefits of yoga.

“When I started looking for a space to share my classes, I had no intention of putting down roots in a city centre,” said Louise, who was teaching yoga on the side of a full-time job when her search for a yoga studio began.

“It just wasn’t part of my vision. But when Alex showed me around the unit inside Mackie’s Corner, I was sold.

“I’m very gut-led and I had a good feeling about it from the moment I stepped inside. Everything about it – from the high ceilings and big windows to the exposed brickwork – caught my attention and felt right. I knew it was the place I wanted to be.

“I handed my notice in at my job, took the leap and the rest is history. It was empowering, terrifying and exciting all at the same time, but the team at Kirtley Co were a fantastic support and made the whole process so easy.”

Today, the studio’s varied and growing timetable offers a range of classes, all of which are designed to strengthen the body and relax the mind.

Popular classes include Classic Flow and Core Flow – which focus on improving core strength, balance and flexibility using traditional vinyasa sequences and classic yoga poses – along with Yin Yang and Mellow Flow, which encourage gentler movement and include dedicated time to meditation and breathwork.

Louise has also developed her very own Sculpt class, which blends deep yoga stretches and targeted Pilates-based exercises for an invigorating experience that increases the heart rate, works the muscles and boosts endorphins.

“It was important to me that Studio by YOTN offered a mix of experiences for all kinds of people – from experienced yogis to complete beginners,” said Louise.

“Yoga can be intimidating. People think you have to look a certain way, be super flexible and take the classes really seriously to be good at it, but that’s not the case.

“It was always a goal of mine to create a laid-back space, where people of all ages, shapes and sizes can be themselves, feel comfortable and have fun – regardless of their ability or whether or not they fit the stereotypical yoga mould.”

Drawing on her experience and training in reiki and crystal healing – and in a bid to shine a light on the importance of mental health – Louise also offers a range of spiritual workshops and holistic sessions to improve wellbeing.

These include New Moon and Full Moon workshops – which include a mix of guided meditation rituals, soft yoga poses and breathwork practices – and relaxing Chakra MOT sessions, centred around guided meditation, reiki and the use of crystals to quiet the mind, cleanse the aura and balance the chakras.

“Mental health is a big focus within the studio and all classes incorporate a degree of relaxation, mindfulness and breathwork,” said Louise.

“Yoga has helped me through some dark times in my life and I’ve seen first-hand the benefits it can have on a person’s wellbeing, but I’m also very spiritual, which is why I wanted to offer holistic, energy-focused sessions, too.

“The feedback has been really positive and I’m looking forward to offering more of these in the coming months.”

Alex Kirtley, MD at Kirtley Co, added: “We’re delighted to have Studio by YOTN in Mackie’s Corner. The studio has such great energy and offers an exciting and varied timetable of classes for everyone. A must-visit for anyone wanting to better their health and wellbeing.”

Classes at Studio by YOTN take place in the evenings from Monday and Friday and in the mornings during weekends, however, Louise hopes to offer daytime classes in the New Year and into 2024.

Find Studio by YOTN at Room 8 (2nd floor), The Co.llective, Mackie’s Corner, Sunderland SR1 1TX. For more information, or to book a class, visit Studio by YOTN’s Instagram page (@studio_by_yotn) or visit https://goteamup.com/p/7586345-louise-edwards/c/schedule?date=2023-12-15

Opening doors in Sunderland

Posted on by Alex Kirtley

Powered by family values, Kirtley Co and Wear homes are doing good things for the place they call home. Portfolio North editor, Jessica Laing, chats to managing directors, Alex Kirtley and James Parkinson, about the parallels between their thriving businesses and their shared mission to make Sunderland a better place to live and work.

They say never mix family with business, but for Kirtley Co and Wear homes, it’s proved to be a recipe for success.

Family-owned and ran for over 40 years, Kirtley Co is a key player in Sunderland’s commercial property space. A landlord, developer and renovator in one, the business is responsible for transforming unused and unloved sites into high-spec workspaces for companies big and small.

Places like Kirtley Co. in Middlesbrough – now home to several flexible office spaces – alongside warehousing and self-storage sites in Peterlee, business units in Leechmere, Deptford and Southwick and, perhaps most notably, Sunderland’s historic Mackie’s Corner – one of the flagship projects in the city’s ongoing regeneration.

Today, managing director, Alex Kirtley, and her sister, Toni, sit proudly at the helm, determined to steer the business forward and carry on what their father, Henry, started all those years ago.

For Wear homes, it’s a similar story. Also spearheaded by family, it’s another local business making its mark in Wearside’s property landscape – only this time with a focus on residential homes.

Founded just over a decade ago by managing director and property specialist, James Parkinson, the business provides quality affordable housing in and around Sunderland – including properties surrounding the latest city centre developments.

The properties – some of which are ex council houses – are immaculately refurbished to offer a higher standard of living and tenants are sourced and supported by James and his trusted team, which now includes his sister and other family members.

Alex and James – both in their early thirties – met during their schooldays and have remained friends ever since.

Today, they’re allies in business, too, sharing the same ambition to improve Wearside’s standard of living and working, shine a light on why it’s a great place to put down roots and help boost and grow local communities. All with the support of those closest to them.

“I’m a huge advocate for businesses supporting other businesses – especially those that operate in the same space,” says Alex.

“Recently, someone asked me who our competitors are and I had no clue how to answer that question. Because I don’t see other people or companies who are doing similar things to us as competitors – in my eyes, we’re all on the same side.”

“Kirtley Co and Wear homes are interlinked in many ways – not only are we both family-owned and led, we both share the same goal, which is to improve Sunderland’s reputation as a place to do business and live happily. Why wouldn’t we want to support each other?”

“We’ve both created quite a niche for ourselves – affordable family homes and affordable luxury workspaces – and so we’ve always been on hand to lend advice, share experiences and offer up suggestions and ideas to one another,” adds James.

“It’s nice to be able to lean on each other and share our expertise and insights because everyone benefits – not just ourselves as business owners, but more importantly, our tenants.”

“Like Wear homes, Kirtley Co also shares the same strong family values and lead as a personal service, which is also really important and a reason why we relate to one another so much.”

“They also have a small turnover of tenants, like we do, and they recognise the importance of building trusted, long-term relationships with them. Our business model and work ethic are very similar. There’s a lot of common ground there,” he says.

Today, both businesses are playing their part in Sunderland’s ongoing regeneration, which has seen the city slowly rise from underdog to top dog in recent months.

Following private sector investments of over £2 billion, several significant commercial, leisure, public sector and residential developments are now in the works to help reinvent Sunderland as a dynamic business location and a vibrant place for community life and culture.

Boosted by local businesses such as Kirtley Co and Wear homes, the aim is to change people’s impressions of the area and put it on the map as a desirable, up-and-coming place for work and play. 

For Alex and James, it’s a welcomed shift – and a movement they’re proud to contribute to.

“Thinking back to when we bought Mackie’s Corner, for example, there was no investment happening in the city centre. Mackie’s was a derelict building and the area was in total decline. It was really sad to see,” recalls Alex.

“Buying there was a huge risk, but our hope was that, if we invest, perhaps it will inspire others to do the same – and together we can begin to turn things around and unlock the city’s potential.”

“In our case, we wanted to set the bar for future investors by creating luxury, yet affordable, workspaces. We wanted to show businesses what could be made possible.”

“It was – and still is – about changing people’s perspectives, so we’re thrilled to see much-needed changes happening and more businesses popping up in and around the city.”

“It’s definitely been a long time coming,” echoes James, who grew up in East Herrington.

“Similarly to Kirtley Co, Wear homes is dedicated to raising Sunderland’s profile and driving as many people to the city and surrounding areas as possible – including the lesser-known postcodes that we deal with, which have been overlooked in the past.”

“It’s an exciting time for people – couples, individuals and families – to invest and make Sunderland their home. You could say we’re bias, but it really is a fantastic place to live, with so much to offer.”

“It’s full of friendly, down-to-earth people, it’s really accessible with great transport links – you can travel between the city, countryside and beach all within no time at all – and its leisure and hospitality scene is going from strength to strength.”

In an extra bid to keep more people in Sunderland and grow bigger and better communities, Wear homes – which recently hit an impressive milestone of 100 properties made available as quality affordable housing – also offers tenants the opportunity to eventually own their rented property as part of its rent-to-buy scheme.

And in 2024, James and his team will be releasing another scheme to help bring more investors into the residential housing market. In true Wear homes fashion, it will be a personalised service, geared towards investors who are looking to grow their portfolios in Sunderland and expand their offering.

“The current demand for rental housing is the strongest we’ve seen it over the past decade and we believe this will continue into next year, bringing new and exciting opportunities,” says James.

 “Although we’re active in multiple housing strategies, supplying affordable homes across Wearside remains our priority and we’re looking forward to literally opening more doors to more people.”

For more information about Kirtley Co, visit kirtleyco.co.uk. For information about Wearhomes, visit wearhomes.com or contact James at james@wearhomes.com

Transforming properties and building communities

Posted on by Alex Kirtley

Kirtley Co is raising the volume on its property activities around the North East. In an exclusive interview with Portfolio North’s Business Editor, Alex Kirtley talked about her role and how the family business is evolving from humble beginnings.

Alex Kirtley acknowledges she is a reluctant PR ambassador for the family business – but there is no doubting her passion.

As MD of Kirtley Co, Alex – and her sister Toni – recently invested in a rebrand and embarked on a fresh approach to marketing to reflect the changes taking place across the business, founded by her father 40 years ago.

Kirtley Co. is something of a hybrid – commercial landlord, property developer and business owner. It offers a range of property services including restorations, and renovations across Sunderland, Teesside, Durham and the wider North East.

It’s the owner and landlord of the iconic Mackie’s Corner – one of the flagship projects in Sunderland’s ongoing transformation. An eclectic mix of popular local businesses now occupy the space including delicatessen Fat Unicorn, menswear specialists Master Debonair, Bou-chique and The Black Door Hairdressing.

The firm also owns and operates flexible workspaces in Middlesbrough, industrial and self-storage space in Peterlee, Sunderland, Leechmere, Deptford and Southwick.

“We’ve tended to quietly go about our business,” she said. “But the investment and changes in our property portfolio meant we needed to alter things and be more proactive with our marketing. And so, we have the new branding, website and partnership with Portfolio North.”

She added: “We’re going through an exciting time at Kirtley Co., as we continue to be a dynamic business which adapts to the needs of the market and business operators. There’s huge regeneration underway in Sunderland and Tees Valley, which we are proud to be playing a part of by offering high quality commercial and serviced work space during a time of transformation across both counties.”

The company has invested heavily in renovating Queen’s Court – now Kirtley Co. Middlesbrough – a building situated just a short walk from Middlesbrough town centre. She and the team are busy marketing easy-in, easy-out flexible workspaces ranging from 110sq ft to 1500 sq ft.

Alex said: “We pride ourselves on connecting great people, great businesses and great places using our experience and knowledge in property to advise and support the businesses which create a home in our spaces. We get to know our tenants and their business aims and vision so that we can support them in achieving their goals and create the perfect place to start or grow their business

“It’s a new era for Kirtley Co. We’ve said goodbye to our last caravan storage customer in Peterlee to make room for a new client and have redeveloped our spaces.”

She’s still a little hesitant when it comes to putting herself and family out there, into the spotlight. She seems more comfortable rolling up her sleeves and getting stuff done. She’s someone who understands the idea of good, old fashioned ‘graft’ and putting in a full shift.

At 34, Alex seems to have been grafting since her early, formative years. Even during her school years, she spent her free hours following her parents and sister around sites within the property portfolio and helping with odd jobs. She stepped into the business at 16 and has been working her way into the MD role ever since. The company is a genuine family business where everyone has a role and mucks in.

Her sister Toni, 32, handles finance and the management accounts, a vital role in the company. Her father, Henry, 63, remains busy working on projects along with her mother Jill. Both have been hands on in the business since Henry bought the first residential rental property in Sunderland 40 years ago. It’s a cottage that has emotional meaning for the parents and is still retained within the property portfolio.

Alex’s partner Paul, a mechanic for 18 years, joined the family business in 2019 and spends much of his time with maintenance matters alongside Mick, a finish joiner. Alex added: “We are lucky enough to still have George and Cliff around on site to pass on there knowledge to the next generation.”

Alex, who somehow finds time to bring up three children, said: “As a firm we pride ourselves on being a family run business with proud roots in the North East of England. We live in each other’s pockets and speak about the business every day. It can sometimes be hard to pull back and relax. We need to find a better work-life-balance in the coming years.”

The pandemic and lockdowns proved to be a critical period for the family and business. “We had never stopped before,” explained Alex. “Some of our tenants suffered and went out of business but we were incredibly fortunate. It gave us valuable time to reflect and look more closely at how we ran things and what direction we should be going in. It has changed everything for the better.”

This period allowed Kirtley Co to review and alter several things. Business rates were reviewed and in one case an annual saving of £30,000 was secured. Staffing was slimmed down, and it was acknowledged there needs to be greater use of technology and how to better utilise time.

Going forwards, Alex hopes her parents can slow down and find more time to enjoy the fruits of their hard work.

In terms of the business, there is a strong likelihood the company will become fully commercial focussed with less residential properties in the portfolio. The goal is to have all properties fully occupied within the next 18 months.

There’s a fresh commitment to marketing now and perhaps in the coming years Alex, alongside sister Toni, will be more confident being in the spotlight and speaking up about the successes of tenants and the family business.

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