• Text by Huck
In partnership with 99designs by Vistaprint — By Design is an editorial series, created in collaboration with 99designs by Vistaprint, that celebrates small businesses across the UK and spotlights the power of a strong visual identity. In our new film, we meet the Gardners, the family behind a business and East London staple still going strong after 150 years.

150 years ago, Paul Gardner’s great-grandfather started Gardner’s Bags: a miscellaneous treasure trove of a shop, stocking all kinds of different paper bags and market sundries.

It has remained in the family since then – passed down to his grandfather, then to his dad, then his mum, then him. Paul took it on the day he finished school and hasn’t stopped since. “It’s all I’ve ever known,” he says.

As a business, Gardner’s sells to all kinds of buyers: bagel bakeries, vintage clothes shops, city farms and film productions. Last year, however, the shop was forced to move from its original location in Spitalfields, east London, due to rising rents. All of this came at a time when Covid-19 was already having a devastating impact on businesses across the country.

But Paul – who’s known locally as ”the paper bag baron of the East End” – is not to be deterred. In a new location five miles further east, and with the help of his son, Robert, he’s writing a brand new chapter in his shop’s unique and colourful history. “It’s great working with Robert,” says Paul. “He’s brought us into the 21st century whereas I was still in the 18th century beforehand.”

“It’s gone through the generations,” he continues. “I think he just wants to keep the heritage of the business carrying on, really. Which is very nice.”

A redesigned logo that celebrates that story, courtesy of 99designs by Vistaprint, has helped create a new visual identity, as Paul’s paper-bag empire digs in its heels in and stakes a claim for the future. In the words of his mum: ‘When one door closes, another door opens.’ It’s a motto they’ll continue sticking to for generations to come.

By Design is an editorial series created with 99designs by Vistaprint, in which all participating businesses receive a design makeover, as well as a financial grant to help them embark on their next chapter. Read more stories from the series here.

Take a look at the other 99 small business design makeovers on 99 Days Of Design.

The new Gardner’s logo was created by forenoon on 99designs by Vistaprint.

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