Irving Howard Brecker is one of the founding partners of the Robert Irving Burns estate agents in Margaret Street. He and his two colleagues set up the business in 1962.
“Great Portland Estates had just sold off all their residential properties and we were given the task of renting out the 30 or so rooms above the shops at 10 – 12 Tottenham Street. We set up our first shop there, put a one line advert in the Evening Standard to rent out the rooms and consequently we had queues of people around the block into Whitfield Gardens,” he told Fitzrovia News.
Irving was not keen on residential sales so he concentrated on the West End offices and business premises. He had a rapport with the rag trade and was known as the “King of the showrooms”.
“The garment industry (rag trade) and showrooms really were important in Fitzrovia and Marylebone in the 60s and 70s. The area was buzzing with showrooms, garment manufacturers and associated businesses. Buyers from the Oxford Street stores often came into Fitzrovia to source garments and because the industry was so close to the shops there was a very fast turnaround.
“I found premises for showrooms and companies that were finding it difficult to pay high Soho rents. A lot of business was done informally in the cafes and pubs. The streets were alive with activity, porters wheeling rails of garments through the streets, agents in and out of factories and showrooms.
“In the late 70s and early 80s the market changed away from showrooms and factories towards residential sales. Burtons had enormous power and they took over and centralised the buying. So there was less scope for the small businesses that operated round here. Also showroom rents became more expensive.
“I remember some of the characters that worked in the area there was the husband and formidible wife team called Tinero at Kenthouse, Market Place. The five Morris Brothers had premises in Little Portland Street, visiting them was like a scene from a Marx Brothers film,” he says.