WHEN Paul Sunderland was told by his doctors that his days building unique pieces of furniture were numbered, he looked to get a foothold in another trade.

Little did he know then that the humble trainer would kick off a whole new line for the East Lancashire entrepreneur.

That’s how Northern Sneakers took shape and he’s not looked back since.

His store-cum-workshop, within the Tollbar Business Park at Stacksteads, is even housed in the former Bacup Shoe Mill.

Keighley-born Paul used to run Shabby Elephant in Bacup but was told by his doctors that his arthritis, which mainly affects his knees would limit his calling over the next five to 10 years.

He said: “I was taking stock when I started to think about trainers and how much some pairs can go for these days.

“Some of the newer brands are at least £130 a time and if you look at some online auctions, there are pairs, for example, of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars, which may have cost £75 when new, but can now go for more than £430.”

Paul has now secured a major contract with a major supplier for the Foot Asylum chain to take their slight seconds.

And with his keen eye for detail, and an array of dyes and fine brushes at his disposal, he can make any shop-soiled pair look as good-as-new.

One of his main lines sees him rescuing people’s beloved footwear, which may have ended up nearly unwearable.

Paul added: “There was one chap the other day who decided to repair his car in his pride and joys, and 95 per cent of them must have been left covered in oil, and I managed to get nearly all of it out.

“Another guy had decided to spill his favourite curry over his brand new white trainers and we managed to help him out too.”

Like any number of start-ups, with their own twist, he has been attracting interest from far and wide, with jobs dispatched across the United States and as far afield as Indonesia and Vietnam to date.

“This was a natural progression for me, as I can’t lift any more due to being riddled with pain,” he said.

“It just goes to prove that sometimes things do get in your way but when things don’t go right, maybe it’s time to turn left."

Alongside the fashionable brands, he also has a fairly hefty collection of colourful bargain basement pairs, so cash-strapped parents can pick up some pumps for a tenner.

The Rossendale valley was renowned as one of the UK’s shoemaking meccas, at one time, and a number of firms still trade between Rawtenstall and Bacup.