Like many seaside towns we’re lucky enough to have here in the North East, Saltburn is effortlessly cool. But there’s something oh-so refreshing about the creative community here. It’s not a huge network, but with likeminded individuals doing what they love most – in a place where they can bounce off one another – it seems the only way is up.
“As a region – and country – we’ve been through some very strange times recently,” says Sophie.
“But in a small town like Saltburn, people really value that sense of community, so as we build ourselves back up again, we’ve got a huge support network. It’s so refreshing to see.”
hey ho & co is the business you’ll see in the centre of town, but it was born out of Sophie’s first creative baby, hey ho print co – a social enterprise providing workshops and studio space in Saltburn.
“We started out as a print studio, hosting workshops and offering a creative space for artists and designers to flourish and grow,” explains Sophie.
“Then we got the opportunity to take on the shop in the old Station Buildings. It’s only small, but it’s a gorgeous space and just fits in perfectly with what we’re all about.
“Print is our bread and butter, but it’s really exciting to be able to offer something a little different. It’s been great to branch out into homeware. hey ho & co is lifestyle store really – a hub for all things cool and creative.”
Sophie is a trained graphic designer who’s artistic journey led her back to Saltburn – the place she started her creative career. She moved to Saltburn from Yarm at the age of 18 to attend art college and was consumed by the chic new environment she found herself in by the coast.
The art, the architecture, the surfing – and everything in between.
“University led me down to London, where I spent a bit of time teaching, but there was definitely something I knew I was going to be doing with my future in Saltburn. I think because it had so much potential, I really wanted to be part of growing that.
“When I first moved here, there were lots of charity shops – which were great – but it didn’t have that edge just yet. It was like a bubble ready to burst.
“And I think, along with all of the other independent businesses, we burst that bubble just at the right time. It’s given everyone a bit of a leg up, and it’s an incredibly exciting time to work and live here.”
Just as that bubble burst, hey ho print co burst open its doors, and the rest is history.
“We’re as much about providing inspiration as we are about selling products. It kind of fits into the whole wellbeing thing. hey ho & co is a really calming space – just a stone’s throw from the beach. It’s a retreat – a place to relax and enjoy.
“We’ve got this huge gorgeous window that just lets the light in beautifully. It’s a really quirky space and it just comes to life when we fill it with our fantastic suppliers.
“People come in all of the time and just say, ‘I want my house to look like this’ – that’s why we’re broadening the offering so people can take little bits and bobs home with them.”
Sophie took on the store in 2018 and has seen both sides of the business grow from strength to strength; but the lockdown period was a welcome break to differentiate between the two.
“We had a bit of time to pause and reflect, and decided the best way forward was to separate the shop and the studio.
“The print side of the business was always going to lead to homeware and interiors, so it all moulds together nicely, but it’s important that we don’t lose our identity.
“The shop became hey ho & co, which meant we were able to branch out into the lifestyle stuff – plants, pots, candles, cushions, throws and what have you. This stock sits nicely alongside the printed products such as cards, wrapping paper and artwork.
“We also have some quite exclusive prints in stock at the moment. Work that you can’t get anywhere else in the North East, from the likes of Tom Pigeon and local creatives such as Susan Noble and Michael Lazenby.
“We like to support independents. It tends to be people we meet at print fairs or we come across on Instagram.”
The hey ho & co store is a great place to showcase such talent, but the studio is also a place to meet up-and-coming creatives, or help budding artists make their next move.
“We’ve just had a young graphic designer who really wanted to start doing his own prints, so he came to a workshop then started using the studio space. Now he has left his job and has started his own business. It’s those success stories that remind us why we do what we do. When you see someone’s talent grow from a hobby to a career, it’s just brilliant – particularly when you’ve had the pleasure of being a part of the journey.”
Sophie’s hey ho print co workshops also welcome local businesses, those looking for new hobbies and child-friendly sessions, too.
“The kids love it. We host very hands-on workshops, usually with an interesting theme that can really spark their creativity. They make t-shirts, bags, artwork… all sorts.
“What is also great is that we can point people in the right direction, whether it’s shoppers looking for some hands-on experience, or workshop pupils looking for art supplies. With both the store and the studio, we just want people to feel welcome to pop in for a chat. It’s really just a hub for all things creative. It has a real community feel.”
hey ho & co is all about celebrating print, sharing creative designs and promoting sustainable shopping.
“All of our cards are recycled, all garments are generally organic, and all of the printing we do is with water-based inks, to ensure we are as eco as possible. All products are manufactured in an ethical way – that’s what we try and promote. It’s all about living a low impact lifestyle – with no compromise on loveliness.
“I remember when organic veg came into the shops and people thought, ‘oh my gosh, it’s so expensive!’ – but now, people are really conscious about it, they really want to invest in products that are better for the environment and it’s totally refreshing to see.”
Sophie and her young family have wandered a little further from the waves, settling down in the quiet village of Crathorne, near Yarm – but the beach is always going to be home for the business, she explains.
“We moved to Crathorne for the quiet life, as Saltburn is becoming more and more popular because of its vibrant social scene.” But the cool, creative buzz of Saltburn is still very much part of everyday life for Sophie, with both sides of the business set up in the seaside town.
“People seem to be visiting our coastline from further afield now. Tourism has shot up and it’s really great for the area. We have people visiting from all over the country – really cool, designer types.
“We have a few clients from London who come in and say, ‘wow – I never thought I’d find anything like this in a tiny seaside town in the North East!’.
“I think what draws people here is the sense of community and the plethora of independent businesses. We’re quite a young community, so we’re all of a similar generation, which adds a real vibrancy to the town. It’s a place full of fresh ideas, and people love that.”
Away from work, Sophie’s lifestyle shares many of the same values of hey ho & co – cool, creative spaces and the joy of the great outdoors.
“When it comes to downtime, I love to get out on the surfboard. As a family, we’re always out and about – when we can, of course! We do a lot of gardening, so Crook Hall & Gardens in Durham is one of my favourite places. Since moving to Crathorne, we eat out a lot more around Yarm and Middlesbrough.
“We’re very connected with our base in Crathorne, so try to travel up and down the region as much as we can.”
Spending time between coast and country is what North East living is all about, and Sophie is doing just that.