Tyne and Wear Metro businesses: From tattoo artists to yoga studios

The Metro station provides a home for more than 40 businesses from a range of sectors

Monkseaton, Metro Station
Monkseaton, Metro Station

From tattoo artists to yoga studios, the Tyne and Wear Metro system is home to a range of diverse small businesses. Graeme Whitfield reports.

As small business hubs go, it has transport links second to none.

The Tyne and Wear Metro system gets thousands of people to work every day but for some people that commute ends at the station itself as that is the building where their firms are based.

The Metro system currently has 43 tenants at 20 of its 60 stations, while there are even more businesses - including national chains such as Sainsbury’s and Cafe Nero - operating from stations owned by third parties.

And while commuters might expect to see newsagents or even cafes at their stations, many of the businesses on the network go way beyond the usual public transport tenants. One station alone - Monkseaton - has a tattoo studio, a cafe, a blinds shop, an Indian takeaway and a storage unit for the local operatic society.

“In the past Metro offered very traditional businesses on its stations, such as local newsagent stores,” says Andy Lynch, commercial manager of DB Regio Tyne and Wear, which operates the Metro on behalf of owners Nexus. “In recent years however, we have seen a major shift in how people are using empty shop units with our tenants beginning to explore more diverse business opportunities.

Map showing retail outlets at Tyne & Wear Metro stations
Map showing retail outlets at Tyne & Wear Metro stations

“For a start-up to be successful it’s really important that they can attract custom to grow. Opening up shop at a Metro station offers real connectivity for businesses with a steady passenger trade which helps to attract new and loyal customer trade. We currently have a number of units available and we’re always open to new ideas.”

While many of the purpose built stations created for the Metro at its origins in 1980 and its subsequent extensions are simply places to get on and off the trains, the older station houses that previously had rail services are often large enough to provide accommodation for small firms.

So along with the network of small businesses at Monkseaton, there is a yoga studio and two cafes at Whitley Bay, a wine merchant at West Jesmond and a pet accessory shop in Cullercoats.

Among the tenants at Whitley Bay is Natalie Jayne Robinson, who runs the new Coffee Central shop, having been inspired to start her own business by her mother Suzanne, who runs her own hair and beauty salon.

She said: “When I was a teenager it was my dream to run my own business in the local area. I wanted to be just like my mum, she has really inspired me and it’s thanks to such a supportive family that I have been able to set up in business.

“We got the keys for the premises in November and since then the business has really taken off. I just love being around customers, I’m a people person and interacting with my customers is very important to me. It’s brilliant to be on the Metro station as you can tap into a steady stream of passing trade throughout the day.”

A few stops around the line at Cullercoats is the Wandering Dog Company, which grew out of a stall at Tynemouth Market (itself an example of a Metro station providing a hub for small firms) and now operates to sell herbal dog supplements and natural treats.

Joanne Miller, who runs the company, said: “We kicked off the business in a Metro station because we started as a stall at Tynemouth market on Saturdays and Sundays selling natural dog treats.

“After a while we decided to look for a unit where we could grow the business. We found Cullercoats and managed to secure the unit.

“It’s just been brilliant. One of the key bonuses for us is that it is only a few minutes away from the beach. People walking their dogs come straight to our shop so the location is perfect.

“Customers who don’t have cars will often come here on the Metro, place their order and then we deliver them. Other people use the free parking. We couldn’t ask for more - it’s something a little bit different and a great place to start a business.”

Though there are many and varied shops on the system, there are also empty units available for rent at Byker, Four Lane Ends and Gateshead.

Mr Lynch said: “Some of our tenants, such as the family-run newsagents at Heworth, have been with Metro since the 1980s and it’s vital that we continue to support enterprise in the region. I hope good news stories like Natalie’s and the many other new tenants that we’ve attracted encourages other people to consider the opportunities our premises offer. We have a very flexible approach and are happy to help.

“We want the Metro system to be an environment that our customers can browse at their leisure, rather than just use it for just getting from A to B. It’s very important to make our tenants feel part of the DB family too, so we offer package incentives to help them grow, depending on the unit and any work that needs to be done.”

For advice on starting a business on a Metro station, Mr Lynch can be contacted on 0191 203 3240.

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