Well Street traders say Tesco failed to install promised Jack Cohen plaque 100 years on from founder’s first stall

Well Street Market during a future talent takeover for youngsters. Picture: Sean Pollock

Well Street Market during a future talent takeover for youngsters. Picture: Sean Pollock - Credit: Archant

Traders in Hackney’s historic Well Street say Tesco failed to install a promised plaque to mark 100 years since its founder Jack Cohen opened his first market stall.

Well Street. Picture: Helin Tezcanli

Well Street. Picture: Helin Tezcanli - Credit: Archant

First World War serviceman Cohen was 20 when he used his demob money to buy the forces' surplus goods to sell at Well Street Market.

His business grew under his mantra "stack them high, sell them cheap" and Tesco was born - "Tes" for TE Stockwell, who supplied his tea, and "Co" after his surname.

Though born in Whitechapel, Cohen lived in Darnley Road, Gore Road and Gunton Road and his HQ and wholesale stores were in Upper Clapton Road.

His father was a tailor who ran a business in Mare Street, but Jack preferred the markets and also had stalls in Chatsworth Road and Hoxton Street.

To mark the historic occasion, Tesco told the Well Street Traders and Shopkeepers Alliance three years ago that a plaque would be installed in 2019 - but it didn't happen and the supermarket has now told the Gazette it has "no plans" to do so.

"We've been in talks with Tesco for three years," said one member of the association. "At first they were enthusiastic. But in the last year we've heard nothing and the people we spoke to have 'moved on'.

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"It would seem to be very fitting to mark the founding of one of this country's greatest retail businesses here in Hackney and to encourage young entrepreneurs to start up just as Jack did.

"His early start in business and family life were based in this borough and it would be fitting to honour that."

The alliance now says it will have one made and put in a prominent place in the street.

"Jack Cohen did a great thing," the trader added. "He showed how to make a way for yourself and succeed from the bottom using his creativity and drive. What's not to make a shout out about that?"

Jack Cohen opened the first Tesco in the street in 1972. The store does now allow children from the local Gascoyne and Morningside Youth Club to run a stall outside, while other shopkeepers in the street offer advice about business and marketing.

"We see this as in the tradition of Jack Cohen," the spokesperson added. "Encouraging young entrepreneurs to make a start in beginning building up their business as he did. How appropriate!"

A Tesco spokesperson said: "We have no plans for a plaque but our history in Well Street and Jack Cohen's legacy are really important to us."