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Edward Gardner

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Information about Edward Gardner

Profile image of Edward Gardner

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
StyleMakers
Occupation(s):
Personal Care Entrepreneur

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Soul Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Chicago, Illinois
Favorite Quote:
No one monkey stops the show.

Birthplace

Born:
2/25/1925
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
StyleMakers
Occupation(s):
Personal Care Entrepreneur

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Soul Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Chicago, Illinois
Favorite Quote:
No one monkey stops the show.

Birthplace

Born:
2/25/1925
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Edward Gardner is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Personal care entrepreneur Edward George Gardner was born on February 25, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois to Frank and Eva Gardner. Following service in the U. S. Army during World War II, Gardner returned to Chicago and enrolled in Chicago Teacher’s College, where he received his B.A. degree in the 1940s. He went on to also obtain his M.A. degree from the University of Chicago.

Gardner worked for fourteen years as an instructor and school administrator for the Chicago Public Schools while simultaneously working part time as a black hair care sales representative. Learning of the dissatisfaction of many African American consumers and hair care professionals, he and his wife, Bettiann, launched Soft Sheen Products from their basement in 1964. With brands such as Optimum and Care Free Curl, Soft Sheen Products grew into a multimillion-dollar enterprise employing more than 400 people. The company also developed globally, exporting its products to Canada, the Caribbean and West Africa. In 1998, Gardner sold Soft Sheen Products to L’Oreal of Paris and passed the day-to-day operation of Soft Sheen on to his children.

Gardner has also been committed to service in the Chicago community. He owned the New Regal Theater and served as president of Garden Investment Partners. In addition, Gardner received credit for helping register over 250,000 people for Mayor Harold Washington's election in 1983. He served as a board member of the Chicago Urban league and was invited by President Bill Clinton to attend an economic summit in Little Rock, Arkansas, to discuss the impact corporations can have on urban employment.

Soft Sheen’s honors include a “Company of the Year” award from Black Enterprise magazine, and a 1999 Golden Pyramid Award.

Edward Gardner was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 12, 2002.

See how Edward Gardner is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Edward Gardner interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Edward Gardner's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Edward Gardner lists his family members
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Edward Gardner shares his favorite saying
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Edward Gardner recalls his favorite childhood activites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Edward Gardner describes his parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Edward Gardner remembers his grandparents and great-grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Edward Gardner discusses his parents' lives
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Edward Gardner shares childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Edward Gardner recounts experiencing racism in the Army
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Edward Gardner discusses overcoming America's legacy of discrimination
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Edward Gardner recalls his early education and interest in art
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Edward Gardner remembers his teaching career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Edward Gardner remembers Bronzeville in the 1930s and 1940s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Edward Gardner remembers teachers who influenced him
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Edward Gardner discusses his family
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Edward Gardner recalls his early career
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Edward Gardner describes how Soft Sheen evolved into a major company
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Edward Gardner recounts the success of Care Free Curl
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Edward Gardner reflects on why his company is so successful
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Edward Gardner explains why Soft Sheen sold to L'Oreal
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Edward Gardner discusses his childrens' business enterprises
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Edward Gardner talks about his family's community involvement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Edward Gardner discusses the people he emulates
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Edward Gardner reflects on the success of black businesses
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Edward Gardner compares the hair care industry then and now
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Edward Gardner recalls starting the House of Kicks family recreation center
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Edward Gardner remembers protests against the House of Kicks
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Edward Gardner explains the marketing and operation of House of Kicks
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Edward Gardner describes his pride in achieving success despite discrimination
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Edward Gardner discusses his philanthropic pursuits
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Edward Gardner recalls his involvement in the Harold Washington mayoral campaign
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Edward Gardner shares his concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Edward Gardner discusses the revival of the Regal Theatre
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Edward Gardner considers his legacy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Edward Gardner discusses the need for success in the face of discrimination