Pineapple turns sour for fashion retailer

Popular Whitley Bay retailer Debbie Waddle has vowed to continue trading after damp and delays forced her out of her dream shop.

Debbie, who has worked for some of the top fashion brands, temporarily shut the door on The Pineapple Room at Whitley Lodge after being told work to solve a long-running problem would only take a fortnight.

But more than two months later she has no idea when she can return and – even though still paying bills for the shut shop – Debbie is so determined to carry on that she has opened a new store.

“There have been a lot of tears.  I was at such a low point that I thought of leaving it all and running away,” she admitted.

By chance, though, she discovered that the landlord of a shop in Station Road in Whitley Bay was looking for a short-term tenant.

In just over a week, with the help of family and friends, Debbie transformed the former sweet shop into a suitable place to showcase her range of ladies’ clothes and accessories.

She has also been supported by two members of staff as well as the wider Whitley Bay community.

“People love The Pineapple Room and that’s why I do it.  I’ve got very loyal customers who keep messaging me to say they’ll follow me wherever you go,” said Debbie.

Bad headaches and illnesses

But back in September she was looking forward to a long-term future at the shop in Whitley Lodge.  The Pineapple Room had already proved popular during a year of trading at the Royal Quays outlet in North Shields and she was confident the new location would help the business go from strength to strength.

“Even then there was a damp patch.  I just thought it was just new plaster drying out, but it was taking ages,” said Debbie, who lives in Blyth.

The problem did not go away. One of the members of staff began to suffer from bad headaches and, unusually for her, Debbie said she had to be off work due to two bouts of illness.

She made numerous complaints to the agent acting for the landlord – a London property management company – but said nothing was done. She compiled a dossier detailing what had happened and sent it directly to the landlord.

Finally, around Easter time she was told work would be carried out, but nothing happened until 12 June when Debbie was asked to close the shop for two weeks.

The Pineapple Room still remains shut. Debbie’s gone back and seen some evidence of work but has not been told how long it will now take.

She kept busy running pop-up stores in Tynemouth and Killingworth and even busier preparing the new shop.

“I’m going to keep building my business back up, maybe for just a couple of months, and see what happens then,” said Debbie.  If the problem at Whitley Lodge is sorted she will gladly return. If not she believes it is only fair to be released from her lease to focus on a long-term future in Station Road.

Debbie’s stellar career in retail started in 1976. She became a visual merchandiser for the giant Arcadia Group and had a management role with the Principles retailer.  She worked for fashion houses Coast, Roman Originals and Seasalt and – after a brief retirement in 2018 – took a part-time job at the LK Bennett concession in Fenwick’s.

She then launched a consultancy which provided services including personal shopping and wardrobe detoxing, but that had to be put on hold during the pandemic.

Debbie next set up a group on social media offering ideas on style and fashion. As a result of its success she began sourcing and selling items and started running pop ups in Morpeth and at the Royal Quays.  That resulted in the offer of a shop there which preceded her move to Whitley Bay.