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Gardners: 150-year-old Shoreditch shop will close and move due to rising rents in the area

PUBLISHED: 09:41 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:20 06 January 2020

Paul started working in the shop when he left school after his father passed away. He loves his job and chatting with customers everyday. Picture: Holly Chant

Paul started working in the shop when he left school after his father passed away. He loves his job and chatting with customers everyday. Picture: Holly Chant

Holly Chant

After 150 years of selling sundry goods on Commercial Street to market vendors and stores all over London - Gardners - one of the oldest family-run shops in the east end will close this month.

Gardners. Picture: Holly ChantGardners. Picture: Holly Chant

Fourth Generation shop keeper, Paul Gardner, doesn't want to leave his shop but rents keep rising in the area and he'd rather keep his prices low.

Paul will be moving the boxes of bags, stickers and miscellaneous goods that he sells to a new location in Leyton.

He told the Gazette: "I feel pretty sad because, you know, my grandad and a lot of my family were born upstairs. My great grandmother, she had about six kids here.

People got married in the church and my great aunt was the first landlady of the Commercial Tavern. I was born up the road and I've been [working] here since the first day I left school.

People come from all over London and beyond to buy bags and stickers for their market stalls and shops. Picture: Holly ChantPeople come from all over London and beyond to buy bags and stickers for their market stalls and shops. Picture: Holly Chant

My mum was brought up in the east end in the second world war so I've got a lot of affinity to the area. It's like a second home."

Gardners is unlike most shops about - particularly the ones it shares a street with.

Paul only takes cash, Gardners isn't on the internet, and, piles of boxes filled with stock litter his store floor creating the narrowest of passages for customers and curious passers-by to explore.

He also takes the time to chat with customers.

Paul's shop is full to the brim with stock. Picture: Holly ChantPaul's shop is full to the brim with stock. Picture: Holly Chant

"I mean that's why I survived. I suppose I'm more affable than most people. If they've got time and 'cause I've been here so long I can always tell a few stories.

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That's the thing really, you see I don't really realise, well I do realise - people love my shop," said Paul.

The more-dedicated-than-most shop keeper has taken only a handful of days off in his career. This year he took two days for his son's graduation and his wife's 60th birthday. "It's only me and I feel bad if I close the shop because some people might come a long way and then I'm not here."

Shop keeper and 4th generation market sundriesman Paul Gardner. Picture: Holly ChantShop keeper and 4th generation market sundriesman Paul Gardner. Picture: Holly Chant

When asked why people travel from Brixton, or even Kent, to buy from Gardners Paul says it's because he cares, is flexible with his rates and doesn't expect people to buy lots for a reduced price.

"I had a guy come in this morning and he wanted 32 little stripe bags. I said: "Why don't you have a 100 it costs £2.40? But he said he wouldn't use them all and that he'd give me £2 for 32. I ended up charging him a pound.

I could of got £2, and I know it's not much difference, but he was saying he was doing things for homeless people giving out hampers of food. A lot of people sell stuff by the box but not many people sell 32!" he said.

Paul also helped found a little union called the East End Trades Guild which has grown into an alliance of over 300 small businesses. His experiences with difficult landlords made him want to help other businesses in the area.

Gardners has sold sundry goods on commercail street for 150 years. Picture: Holly ChantGardners has sold sundry goods on commercail street for 150 years. Picture: Holly Chant

Despite all its history and charm however, Paul doesn't feel it would be right to crowdfund to keep the shop which has been run and owned by his family since 1870.

"I've been pretty lucky i've gone on through thick and thin," he said.

"It'll be sad when I go and in an ideal world I'd stay here forever. On the other hand, I have got money and I feel that I couldn't really ask people to crowdfund for me to stay here. I feel like it would be a bit bogus really because I have got somewhere else to go."

Gardners Market Sundriesmen closes on the 7th of January but Paul will be holding a party today to celebrate its history with customers and friends.

Gardners can now be found in Leyton at 78 Ruckholt Road.


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