JOHN Harrington has gone against the grain.

A London lad, he’s brought himself and his family up to Hartlepool.

At a time when it’s perceived by some that you have to leave the North-East to flourish, he’s proof not everyone is magnetised to the capital’s lure.

It’s a change, he admits it so, but he says the switch is a refreshing one.

The move, in the main, is for business reasons.

As a director at furniture company Top Brass, Mr Harrington has moved to be closer to its operations and ongoing expansion.

The firm has built up a multi-million pound turnover making furnishings for some of the UK’s largest hotel chains, providing a one-stop shop for furniture, upholstery, beds, wall prints, curtains and blinds.

It has taken on a 30,000sq ft former cake plant on Hartlepool’s Oaksway Industrial Estate to maintain its growth, and Mr Harrington said he hopes its expansion will rub off on fellow businesses.

From a team of two in the town, the company now has more than 30 staff, its progress galvanised by previous £2m hotel orders for beds, and plans to have around 50 workers by the end of next year.

For Mr Harrington, the Hartlepool switch is not totally new as Top Brass have had a presence in the town for a number of years.

However, he said what would be different was having the opportunity to spend proper time in the region, rather than snatches of days and weeks in between journeys to and from its London head office.

He added that more permanent routine would allow him to oversee the business’ growth more easily, which he said was being helped by its fantastic workforce.

“Southerners coming up here get a nosebleed just after Watford”, he jokes, “but what I've found is that the people are different.

“Down South, sometimes it’s ‘what is the company going to do for me?’, but up here it is more like ‘what can I do for the company?’

“It is very refreshing.

“In many ways, the people in the South have got it easier and got a little complacent.

“But those up here want to work and want to change.

“It’s certainly given me a revitalisation in my working life.

“Our growth has been a real success story and has been aided by the decision to be in Hartlepool, where we find the myriad of skills and talents we need.

“We started off with just two of us and relied on word of mouth.

“But then we won two £2m orders for beds with a big hotel chain, and that led to other contracts coming in from franchises.”

Mr Harrington said the company expects to be in its new base by the start of November at the latest, with the factory renovation including £750,000 machinery.

He said the space, four times larger than its original base, would provide room to continue fulfilling orders in its traditional markets, while opening up potential in new sectors, such as student lodgings.

He said: “We have developed into commercial refurbishment and 80 per cent of our work is for hotels and the commercial sector.

“We won our first major contract in 2012 with an international hotel chain, and it has grown from there.

“We were once asked to make some stools for a hotel in the South, which were like spacehoppers, and created a table and chair set for children centred around the Rubik’s Cube.

“However, things like student accommodation are there for the taking and ready for a furnishings company to come in.

“We can turn our hand to anything.”

Five minutes with…. John Harrington

Favourite North-East building and why? Only having lived in the North-East for a relatively short time, my family really enjoys the Hartlepool Maritime Museum and the building complex around it. Those and the Hartlepool Museum itself truly give you an insight into the history, not only of the town but the region too. They give me perspective and appreciation of my new hometown and its people.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? Working on a department store loading bay in Oxford Street for £45 per week. Great back in the day.

What is the worst job you've had? I can honestly say I have been very lucky in all my jobs, so I don’t have one to share.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? Signature man dish of course would be Spaghetti Bolognese. But all cooked from scratch with wine and chilli essence base.

What would your superpower be? Invisibility.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Bobby Moore, Dean Martin, Sandra Bullock and Queen Latifah.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? The second engagement ring for my wife – I guess I must have messed up with the first one.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? Sir Richard Branson. A genius and a down to earth multi-billionaire.

Favourite book? Anything by Bernard Cornwell.

When did you last cry? When West Ham threw away the FA Cup Final to Liverpool after being 2-0 up. As all West Ham fans know, they break your heart.

What is your greatest achievement? My four children. They are worth every pain and strife we go through for them.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? Be honest. You can’t do everything so trust and surround yourself with professionals who specialise in the things you are honestly weakest at.

Favourite animal and why? Monkeys – bad in Hartlepool I guess? But they make me smile.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? Would love to say I have some, but I don’t.

What was the last band you saw live? Madness.

Describe your perfect night in: Pizza, wine, a movie and the family with me. (As long as they don’t ask questions about the plot. Or take the last slice.)

In another life I would be? I would love to have been part of the space programme and maybe even got to go to the Moon.

Who would play you in a film of your life? In my slimmer more fashionable single days? Bruce Willis. Everyone else would say Mr Bean or my daughter Charlotte would say Ian Beale from Eastenders – you can’t choose your family.

What irritates you? Delays and indecision.

What's your secret talent? Telling fibs. Or is it?