Founders Blog – Paul & Rob Gardner – Gardners’ Bags.

Founders Blog – Gardners Bags, Paul & Rob Gardner.

Photograph by Sarah Ainslie.

What is the origin story of Gardners how did it all begin?

James Gardner began the business in 1870 as a scale-maker for market traders in Spitalfields – often delivering by horse and cart! Over time we started selling bags and market sundries to customers and began selling to a wider range of businesses beyond the local market. The business has been through five generations, spanning over 150 years, and we’ve still got many of the old sale-books from over 100 years ago. My Dad has been working in the shop for over 50 years since the 1970s, and many of our customers have been with us for decades; its more of a vocation than a business!

Bertie & Roy Gardner

Why did Gardners become a founding member of the Guild 10 years ago?

In 2010 the business was threatened with a large rent increase from the landlord in Spitalfields, who wanted to extract more money from the business than we could afford. The Gentle Author wrote about Paul in his blog Spitalfields Life, and this inspired Krissie – who was studying community organising at the time – to visit and ask about setting up a Guild of small and independent businesses. By working together with other founding members and the Gentle Author, we were able to push back against this unfair situation and force the landlords to relent on their greed. Together we are stronger!

What has been the most valuable aspect of Guild membership for you since you joined?

Community. Working together and supporting each other as members of the Guild has been great. Building up a community and knowing initiatives like RENTCHECK has the potential to stop rogue landlords from trying to act like they did to us in 2010 is really fulfilling. Many of our long term customers have joined as members, and we’ve met new ones through the Guild across the last decade. Being a member and getting involved is a lot more empowering compared to trying to fight battles alone.

Len Maloney EETG member, Meg Hillier MP for Hackney, John Biggs previous Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Sarah Haque EETG member, Paul Gardner and Phillip Glanville Mayor of Hackney deliver the business rates petition to 10 Downing Street.

How has your business changed in the last decade?

One big change has been moving to Leyton, after being in Spitalfields for 150 years. In retrospect it was very lucky – we moved just before the pandemic – and prior to a whole set of new rent increases! We’ve also got a new website, and we now do deliveries across the UK! On Wednesdays Paul goes and delivers directly to businesses Spitalfields and most of our old customers continue to buy from us.

What do you want people to know about Gardners right now?

We’ve got a lot of products and info on our website . In the future, we’re really looking forward to getting involved with events through the Guild. We’ll be at the 10 year anniversary this Wednesday!