In 1882 an ambitious young shop assistant, John James Fenwick, began a retail empire when he took over a doctors house in a residential area of Newcastle upon Tyne. It cost him £181 and 4 shillings to convert 5 Northumberland Street house into a shop a tidy sum in those days.
JJ, as he was known, described himself as a Mantle Maker and Furrier. Together with two assistants he sold mantles, silk goods, dresses, fabrics and trimmings. Sales were healthy. The business grew. Within three years he had purchased 37/38 Northumberland Street and when Fred Fenwick, his eldest son, joined the business in 1890, number 40 was acquired. Today the flagship Fenwick store remains on this exact same site.