I like to look after people – Well Street’s ‘urban bush doctor’ on 36 years of The Wholemeal Shop
PUBLISHED: 12:26 04 September 2017 | UPDATED: 12:32 04 September 2017
Three decades of recommending health foods and supplements to customers has earned George Edwards the nickname “the urban bush doctor” – though whether he appreciates that is another story.
A true, no nonsense East Ender, George has remained a constant in Well Street, one of Hackney’s oldest trading streets, through good times and bad.
Customers come from far and wide to The Wholemeal Shop seeking advice on how to cure their ailments, and his shelves are always packed with health foods, bodycare products and vitamins.
The fact customers usually come back suggests he knows what he’s doing, but there’s no medical background to speak of.
“I set up this shop because I spent years working in an opposite industry to this,” he told the Gazette from behind his counter. “I worked all across the country selling ground tobacco and cigarettes. I used to work in a factory in St Luke’s Square in Canning Town. We’d get robbed all the time.”
After 25 years of that, George got fed up and following a stint on the road selling greetings cards he and a business partner set up shop in Well Street 36 years ago. The partnership didn’t last long – “they never work” – but George is still plugging away, despite being unhappy with what’s going on outside his shop. He’s not a fan of the relaunched famous market where Tesco founder Jack Cohen had his first stall.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “People have lived here for donkeys years and these new people are moving in looking at them like ‘what are you doing here?’. There were 126 stalls on this market most days of the week. Not like todays grazer’s market. You can go anywhere and get a cup of coffee for £3.50.”
George, who reluctantly agreed to be interviewed after insisting he had work to do, reckons there will be no need for shops in five years because everyone will be buying off Amazon. But what you don’t get online is experience or advice tailored to your needs.
It’s no coincidence he still does a roaring trade when others have fallen by the wayside, but he plays it down and even scowls at the mention of his nickname.
“I’ve done a bit of reading,” he said. “But I learnt it as I went along. I didn’t go to college, back then you were lucky to go to school. Why do I still do it? Because I like to look after people who look after me. If they come in here I will help them.”