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The Re-Opening Of Crescent Trading

August 8, 2020
by the gentle author

‘I want to sell my stock of textiles’

If you were eighty-nine years old and your business partner of thirty years died of Coronavirus, could you find the moral courage to go on? This is the brave step that cloth merchant Martin White has taken, re-opening Crescent Trading after the death of Philip Pittack. He and Philip were a charismatic double act, renowned for their ceaseless repartee and matchless knowledge of textiles. Last week, I went along to show my moral support, as the last cloth warehouse in Spitalfields reopened for business, and Martin confided his thoughts to me.

“On St Patrick Day, 17th March, I told Philip, ‘It’s too dangerous to be here and I am going home.’ I warned him, saying, ‘And you should as well.’ But ‘I’m not going,’ he said, ‘I’m not going…’

I called him every day from home and, the following week, he said ‘I’ve got take my wife to the hospital on Tuesday but have a good customer coming in, will you cover for me?’ I said, ‘No, I will not!’ I didn’t and I wouldn’t.

His wife’s visit to the hospital was nothing to do with the virus but she caught it and, all of a sudden, he began to feel unwell too. His daughter made him go to hospital, he was there for three weeks and they put him on a ventilator.

Philip had underlying health problems. For years, he had congestion of the lungs and diabetes. He also had several stents put in to deal with his heart problems and that fall didn’t do him any good. So he just couldn’t take the treatment for coronavirus. We all thought he was going to pull through but he didn’t, he died on 11th May.

Before we knew anything about the lockdown, Philip and I made an agreement about what to do with the business, whichever one of us went first. He was twelve years younger than me. I am eighty-nine and I was unwell for four months, so it left me in a strange and awkward position, which I have overcome. I have fulfilled all the conditions of our agreement.

Now I am working here on my own. I started coming in on Sundays and re-opened last week. I must admit I am delighted to be back. I love it, I love this work. I have been with Crescent Trading for thirty years but I have been in the trade since I was fourteen, that’s seventy-five years. I want to sell my stock of textiles.

Customers can only come in two at a time, they have to wear masks and use hand sanitiser. If they want to buy fabric, they can buy it. We are open for business.”

Martin White with his trademark monocle

Martin White & Philip Pittack in the old days

Crescent Trading, Quaker Court, Quaker St, E1 6SN. Open Sunday-Friday.

You may also like to read about

So Long, Philip Pittack

Philip Pittack & Martin White, Cloth Merchants

All Change at Crescent Trading

Fire at Crescent Trading

The Return of Crescent Trading

7 Responses leave one →
  1. August 8, 2020

    I bought some lovely Liberty fabric from this shop the last time I was in London. I hope that the shop is still there when travel is possible again.

  2. Adele Lester permalink
    August 8, 2020

    So sorry to hear about Martin’s partner passing. Used to buy all my fabrics at Crescent back in the day. Would go in after school in nearby Spitalfields and choose my fabric for whatever new fashion was in style that week ! Good luck Martin and stay well, Thanks GA for the update.

  3. August 8, 2020

    Greetings from Boston,

    Martin is still looking chipper – love those polished leather shoes. So sorry about his partner in business. A story for our times…

  4. Robin permalink
    August 8, 2020

    Martin, thank you for your commitment to the textile trade and to your partner, Philip. I’m so glad to hear that you’ve been able to open the shop again.

  5. August 8, 2020

    RIP Philip.
    Martin, what a brave decision to re-open and to keep faith with your promise to Philip.
    Long may your business prosper, you both gave it so much energy and commitment over the years.

  6. August 10, 2020

    As a regular caller at Crescent Trading
    with my Students. Thank you Martin for continuing the spirit of the East End.

  7. Tracey permalink
    September 1, 2020

    My father Martin, loves his work, he loves his customers and most of all he loves fabrics, the feel of them and the smell of them. Philip death was a great loss but nonetheless Martin carries on and always will even when he has someone currently trying to sabotage his business by putting out there that he is no longer open or in business. Nothing or anyone will ever keep my father down. We are so proud of you and all that you do. Keep on keeping on Papa… we love you x

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