Published on February 4th, 2020 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Mark Hird An Appreciation
The death of one of the region’s entrepreneurs has robbed the leisure industry of huge potential, writes Alastair Gilmour
The North East hospitality sector has lost one of its most innovative entrepreneurs. Mark Hird, founder and managing director of the Sunderland-based Tavistock Hospitality Group, passed away in early December after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
Mark, a great friend of Cheers North East – an admiration that was mutual – achieved mountains more than many in his 47 years. He was widely known throughout the pub, brewing, catering and distilling industry as an energetic character, pioneer and leader, forever driving new ideas forward. Plus, for a man who worked tirelessly to raise the profile of drinking and dining in Sunderland and Wearside, he delighted in revealing he was a passionate Newcastle United supporter.
Mark graduated in 1994 and worked in various restaurants before opening his own in 2000 with his wife Nicola – the award-winning 11 Tavistock Place, in Sunderland. Over the next 19 years the energetic couple opened and renovated more than 30 properties in the North East under different brands, such as Tavistock Italia, Sonnet 43 Gastro Pubs, Tavistock Thai China, Italian Farmhouse and the flagship Roker Hotel.
The business won many coveted awards regionally and nationally with the Publican Award for “Best Value Gastropub Chain” being a particular highlight. After finding inspiration in locally-sourced produce and taking every aspect of that right across his businesses, Mark studied at Brewlab in Sunderland and set up Sonnet 43 micro-brewery in early 2015 so he could brew his own craft beer, which led to the development of S43 Brewery – currently enjoying fantastic growth.
Poetic License Distillery was developed in 2015 in an expanding gin and vodka market; the distillery has continued to grow with major contracts in place with supermarkets and pub chains.
Mark made long-lasting friendships through his charisma, energy for life and kindness. He and Nicola were devoted to each other and always put their three children first.
The Whole Of The Moon by The Waterboys played as the congregation settled at his standing room-only funeral in St John’s Methodist Church in Sunderland – with the song taking on a haunting new meaning and a sudden realisation for many in attendance. One interpretation of the song is not only an individual’s uncanny ability to perceive the grand scheme of things and aspire accordingly towards lofty goals, but also to graciously accept that there are people in the world who are more informed and experienced than we are ourselves – typical of Mark’s generosity of spirit. “With the wind at your heels… Too soon…” will stay with us when we think of him.
Jonathan Graham, operations director of the Tavistock Group, said: “I am deeply saddened at the passing of Mark; he was a true inspiration. I have a lost a best friend of 30 years and the world has lost a wonderful man.”