Nestled away on Borough Road is a small shop with a rich history and big ambitions.
Vintage clothing store Lazy Joe’s is owned by Middlesbrough born and bred Joe Thompson, 34.
From a comfy sofa in the corner of his trendy shop floor, Joe spoke to We are Middlesbrough about his journey so far.
At the age of 16 Joe started working full-time in his late father’s restaurant, Chapters, but after grafting for two years non-stop, he felt burnt out and at a dead end.
He moved to Newcastle where he worked in nightclubs for two years, but eventually got tired of finishing at 4am.
“I had no sleeping pattern and no life,” explained Joe. “I was at a crossroads and didn’t know what to do with myself.”
That was when he got an unexpected call from his brother, who owned fish and chip restaurants in the US and was about to have triplets.
“I went over and helped my brother in the restaurants. Seeing him run his own business inspired me to do the same.
“At the time I was spending all my fish and chip tips in the thrift shop next door, basically buying anything that took my fancy.”
When Joe got back to Middlesbrough he had two suitcases full of vintage clothes, and was armed with an idea.
He got in touch with the council and asked if he could set up a ‘pop up shop’ somewhere in Middlesbrough, selling the clothes he bought in the states.
The council loved the idea, offered him a spot in the Cleveland Centre, and the rest is history.
“Pop up shops in America at that time were really popular, but back in England they weren’t really a thing. I saw the vision, I saw how it worked and I realised ‘this could be a really big thing’,” Joe explained.
“My family in America were laughing their heads off, they were asking why I was going in the thrift shop all the time – it didn’t make sense. I rang them up and said ‘you know all that stuff I was getting? You need to send more over’.
“After a couple months there was a queue outside the pop up shop, so at that point I thought ‘okay, I need to scale up now’.”
Joe moved the shop into its current location on Borough Road, before relocating to Newport Road. That shop ended up closing, but Joe continued to bring clothes from the US to Middlesbrough, then selling them all over the place – including in Ibiza.
“I had a few friends who were DJs out there. A few people over there heard about what I was doing and they wanted my stock. I went over and we did pop ups on people’s roofs, in bars and all over the place really. I even supplied a barber shop with vintage clothing.
“It was a really good way to connect with people from all over the world.
“Meeting those people and making connections is something that was able to help me and get me into the position that I’m in now.”
After taking Lazy Joe’s international, Joe found his calling back here, in Middlesbrough.
“For me, Middlesbrough is my home,” continued Joe.
“It’s where my friends and family are and I felt like I had something fresh to offer it. It just felt right.”
Joe is now keen for his brand to reflect his original idea – a community where people can come together and relax.
“I designed Lazy Joe’s from a customer point of view,” said Joe.
“I set it up to provide the experience I like when I’m in a shop.
“I don’t bombard the customers, I don’t have a sales pitch, I just have the products displayed and you can come in and relax.
“If someone comes in and doesn’t like the stock it doesn’t really matter – hopefully they have a good experience and go and tell their friends. Their friends might like the clothes instead!
“Fashion for me is expression, and I love to bring bold vintage clothing to Middlesbrough. People seem to really enjoy it.
“Right now times are difficult for everyone. I’m really passionate about bringing affordable, vintage clothing to the people of Middlesbrough and building up a sense of community.
“I hope Middlesbrough keeps growing and that people can see and support the incredible talent and creative businesses that are here already.”
You can shop online at Lazy Joe’s, and find out more about their offer on their website.
Middlesbrough’s shopping district offers an eclectic mix of high street names, family-favourite brands, and independent stores.
Whether you’re looking to treat yourself with something special at one of the town’s designer fashion stores, or you’re wanting to pick up the latest off-the-rail trends, there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets.
Middlesbrough is home to many family-run independent shops which you can find along Linthorpe Road – an easily accessible and pedestrianised shopping zone.
Bloom Florists specialises in trendy wreaths and the latest floral trends. Just around the corner is baby clothes specialist Copper Boutique, which is one of the only stockists the north east to sell the popular Carmello clothing range. Hilliers Jewellers specialises in top brand watches and jewellery, and Charles Clinkard has provided a wide choice of footwear to families since 1924.
House of Fraser is one of Middlesbrough’s largest multi-storey stores, specialising in beauty, fashion, and homeware.
Located just off the pedestrianised area are four major shopping centres – Cleveland Centre, Hillstreet Centre, Dundas Arcade Shopping Centre and Captain Cook Square.
Within the centres you will find many of the UK’s leading stores including Pandora, Marks and Spencer, New Look, JD Sports, Boots, River Island, Primark, Collectables and many more.
Contemporary fashion from one of Middlesbrough’s most iconic stores.
With a flagship store on Linthorpe Road and another boutique on Albert Road, award-winning Triads is a must-visit for those serious about the latest high-end looks.
They sell a range of clothing and specialise in designer menswear such as Boss, Patagonia, New Balance, Carhartt, Nike, and Adidas Originals. Triads is the go-to place if you want the latest limited-release trainers.
Designer labels straight from the catwalk.
Flannels specialises in some of the biggest names in fashion for men, women, and children.
This uber-trendy Middlesbrough store sells ready-to-wear pieces from Valentino to Kenzo, Jimmy Choo and Stone Island to DSquared2.
Gucci, YSL Fendi, Burberry, Balenciaga, Balmain, and Stella McCartney are some of the most popular brands. Accessories are a big part of their offering too, expect everything from Sophie Webster heels to the latest Gucci clutch bag.
A family-run business in the heart of Middlesbrough.
Since the first store opened in 1980, Market Cross Jewellers has grown to be recognised as one of the biggest independent jewellers in the UK, with 12 stores across the north east of England. Market Cross stocks everything from high-end watch and jewellery brands such as Breitling and Gucci to collectable gifts such as Willowtree and Swarovski.
The latest homeware trends and stand-out pieces which will transform any home.
Baytree Interiors retails its own brand of distinctive and stylish furniture, lighting and interior accessories.
From elegant and unique gifts to feature plants and accent chairs, affordable luxury underpins everything at Baytree Interiors.
Fancy honing your barista skills? Rounton Coffee, which is based out of Bedford St Coffee, have garnered a much-deserved reputation for their high quality coffee products and Instagram-worthy brunches. You can pick up your own coffee-making set from them and whip up your own creations at home.
Mima art gallery sells artwork, prints and homemade items that support the venue’s artistic programme.
The Antique Fireplace Shop in Linthorpe Village is an Aladdin’s cave selling beautiful, unique items that have been sourced from across the globe.