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Returning home from being an army officer in the First World War and with an infant son, Frank G. Gates was looking to build a life for his family after wartime. Although cars were not a big thing at the time, Frank’s entrepreneurial spirit saw the potential of getting into the Motor Trade. His father supported him in his new venture and helped him to set up in South Woodford. In 1920, he became one of the first appointed Ford Authorised Dealers.
After becoming an authorised dealer, the business really took off and motor sales in general began to increase with more affordable models starting to hit the market. By 1925, Frank G. Gates Ltd was already expanding with their upgrade to a new purpose-built premises in South Woodford that lead to it being referred to as “Gates Corner”.
Gates not only dealt with sales, but also offered vehicle servicing right from their inception. Frank had the idea that once a customer purchases a car from his company, they would likely rely on them for repair. Right from the very beginning Frank also had the insight to see the potential in not only sales, but also the importance of offering vehicle servicing to his customers.
In the 30s, the business really began to be a family affair with Frank’s son Edward joining the company as well as Frank’s brother Harold Gates as well as Harold’s son Bryan.
Frank had already served in one World War and was about to see his next when World War II broke out as the company entered into the 40s. In order to help the war effort, this saw Gates Corner being converted into a meat store as well as the rear of the property being used as an Auxiliary Fire Station. Throughout the war, they moved all garage activities to their previously acquired Chigwell Road premises.
The steady recovery of the business followed after the war ended and as rationing and shortages began to be a thing of the past; bringing the company into the more prosperous decade of the fifties.
Major growth came for Gates in the late 50s with their acquisition of Gates of Walthamstow in 1957 and a purpose-build Parts and Service Centre was also opened shortly afterwards in 1958. By 1959 they hit the London Stock Exchange as Frank G. Gates PLC and built yet another new premises in the up and coming Harlow New Town.
Accomplishments in the 60s included: acquisition of Bennet’s Motor Works Ltd (an existing Ford main dealer), opening the Half Moon Garage in Epping and new locations of Gates of Bishop’s Stortford and Gates of Hitchin were also opened.
The business continued to expand with further acquisitions leading to the decision to return the company back to private ownership in 1995. At the time, despite being a PLC, a large proportion of the shares were retained within the family. In order to enable the return of the company to private ownership, Gates sold a number of their premises in order to achieve this goal. Following the privatisation, the company operated in just three locations: Harlow, Epping and Bishop’s Stortford. Despite going through a very recent and big change and a lot of reorganisation due to the privatisation, they managed to acquire the Ford Main Dealership in Hertford shortly afterwards in 1997.
Privately owned and moving into a new millennium Gates continued on their path of growth, refurbishment and acquisition. Notably, it was in 2018 that a rather more momentous and symbolic purchase was made with the acquisition of a dealership in Woodford Green, the place in which the late Frank G. Gates had started it all.
It was just a year later, in 2019, as the company approached turning 100 years old that yet another symbolic and eventful moment occurred with Frank’s great-great-grandson joining the company’s management team and therefore extending the family business into its 6th generation.
Incredibly, Gates began an entire century ago and Frank was indeed correct to see the potential in the industry to provide a good future for himself and his family, even to this day the business is family owned and operated; in fact, everyone from Frank’s brother, all his children, his daughter-in-law, son-in-law, nephew, great-grandchildren and now great-great-grandchildren have all contributed to this family dynasty.
At Gates, the family spirit extends a little further than blood too with their long list of employees that have been with the company for over 20 years. Combined, those employees have an incredible 4,000 years of Motor Trade experience and in order to recognise their hard work and loyalty, Gates formed the Gates 20 Year Service Club which had its inaugural dinner back in 1975. Twenty-five of those 20 Year Service Club members have worked at the company for over 30 years and a two have served the company for over 50 years. Members regularly get together for a celebratory dinner in which the directors of Gates are also present.
Naturally, a lot has changed since Frank G. Gates stepped into the motor world. Operating from 9 locations, Gates is now moving forward with their investment plans in the hybrid and All-Electric vehicle market, a technology that may have been unthinkable to its founder a century ago.
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