A KITCHENWARE company which began life in a garage nine years ago and now employs 80 people is in line for a national award.

Mayor of Durham Cllr John Robinson today (July 1) visited family-run Andrew James Ltd and toured its warehouse in Bowburn.

The company has won the regional final of the HSBC Global Connections competition, held in Manchester, which recognises business growth, innovation and investment in staff development. The national winners will be announced in September.

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The Mayor was accompanied on the visit by Mayoress Maxine Robinson, Cllr Jan Blakey, Cllr Mac Williams and Cllr Maria Plews.

Cousins Andrew Tomlinson and James Buckle set up the business in a residential garage in 2005 after seeing the potential in a table top grill which was being used at a dinner party they both attended.

They now sell more than 450 kitchen and home products through their own website, Amazon and eBay.

After twice moving to larger premises they now employ more than 80 staff, and are planning a move next year to a new 130,000 sq foot distribution centre in Seaham.

Mr Tomlinson said: “We are now investing heavily in training and qualifications for our staff and are always looking for new technology to make our distribution and communications more effective.

“We always seek to give our employees a voice, and listen to good ideas from within the company.

“We also recently launched a new website, which has opened up another sales channel for us.”