Yesterday a burned-out toilet block, today a busy bike-hire shop a stone’s throw from the beach.
That’s the story of Dirt2Road, a business run by couple from Zimbabwe on Castle Field in Southsea.
Stella Gardner, 53, and her husband Richard, 55, opened the shop hiring out bicycles at Easter this year.
Just a couple of months before opening, the couple applied to Portsmouth City Council to transform the former toilet block in Clarence Esplanade, which had been vandalised and set alight.
Stella said she was thrilled with how the shop was developing.
She said: ‘It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but it’s a cool-looking building now for something that was once a toilet.
‘Our hope is that people will give us suggestions as to what they want to see on the beachfront and about things and facilities for cyclists they’d like to see.’
Stella said they hoped to make it easier for holidaymakers in Portsmouth to have an active stay.
She said: ‘They can rent a bike for half a day or a full day or anything after that.
‘And if they rent a room at a bed and breakfast we can deliver the bike to them there.’
The shop sells bikes, as well as cycling equipment and clothes labelled with the Gardners’ own Dirt2Road brand.
Stella said: ‘We have a dealership with KTM bike industries.
‘That’s an Austrian-based company that manufactures high-end bicycles.
‘We also offer to do bespoke cyclewear for clubs or corporate or charity events.
‘We’ve also got a workshop facility to repair bikes.’
The couple moved to the area 13 years ago – Stella previously worked as an accountant and Richard as a self-employed electrician.
Stella said they both loved spending time in the saddle.
She said: ‘We took up cycling, partly because my husband has a prosthetic leg and I have a problem with my leg.
‘And my son was a South African motocross champion so we’ve always been involved in outdoor sports.’
Stella said the shop also benefitted from its position on the Shipwright’s Way – a long-distance touring route through Hampshire.
She said: ‘They reopened that route as a cycling route, and part of it now joins up at Clarence Esplanade, so that’s another reason why we thought this would be worthwhile location.’
The shop is open 9am to 6pm seven days a week.
For more information call (023) 9275 0350 or visit the website at dirt2road.com.