Paul has his Spitalfields small business ‘in the bag’ for East End’s own Independence Day

Paul Gardner in his shop in Commercial Street [photo: Gentle Author]

Paul Gardner in his shop in Commercial Street [photo: Gentle Author] - Credit: East End Traders Guild

One of the oldest surviving family trading houses in London’s East End has been selected as one of the 100 British companies to launch today’s ‘Small Business Saturday’ campaign.

Paul Gardner in his shop in Commercial Street [photo: Gentle Author]

Paul Gardner in his shop in Commercial Street [photo: Gentle Author] - Credit: East End Traders Guild

Gardner’s which opened in Spitalfields in 1870 to sell and distribute bags for business customers, still operates from its Commercial Street shop premises.

It was set up by owner Paul Gardner’s great-grandfather James to specialise in repairs for the market traders working in Spitalfields at the time.

Much of the business remains the same four generations on—despite pressure from an encroaching corporate City threatening to push up rents and rates in what was once a deprived neighbourhood that is now experiencing its own renaissance.

Paul Gardner in his shop in Commercial Street [photo: Gentle Author]

Paul Gardner in his shop in Commercial Street [photo: Gentle Author] - Credit: East End Traders Guild

Paul Gardner has followed in the footsteps of his ancestors James, John, Bertie, Roy and Vera in keeping the family business alive, much to the delight of residents in this close-knit neighbourhood a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street.


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“We became a founding member of the East End Trades Guild in 2012 to protect and promote small, independent businesses,” Paul says proudly. “We want people to shop locally, because independent traders are the heart and soul of this area.”

His family business is one of a select number being featured by today’s nationwide campaign launch, one a day for the 100 days leading up to Small Business Saturday itself.

Paul Gardner in his shop in Commercial Street [photo: Gentle Author]

Paul Gardner in his shop in Commercial Street [photo: Gentle Author] - Credit: East End Traders Guild

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“It’s nice to have been put forward as one of the Small Business 100 after going as long as we have for 146 years,” Paul adds. “Customers come to the East End for individuality where they know people put themselves out when they have their own business.”

Paul and 200 other Trades Guild members have been preparing for their own local, self-styled Independents’ Day. He plans telling a few stories to people on the ‘Alternative London’ walking tour about the time he came into the family business 44 years ago and is to give out ‘goodie bags’ from his bag business.

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