World's Largest Grocer.
There are not many people living in Cookham now that know that Cookham had its own Supermarket: “THE INTERNATIONAL STORES.” Which occupied the whole space taken up now by The Cookham Arcade.
The first retail branch of ‘Kearley & Tonge’ was opened in Brentford, Middlesex in 1878. The business taking its name from two of its founders H E Kearley and G A Tonge.
Soon more branches followed and in 1895 the company changed its name to the International Tea Company’s Stores Limited.
In the early 1900’s the company dropped the wording Tea Company from its title to just International Stores, proudly proclaiming to be the World’s Largest Grocers with over 200 stores. Of course unlike supermarkets today, the customer was waited on by a member of the staff and making sure that all the customer’s needs were met.
Staff recruiting was usually taken on with boys and girls leaving school at 14, boys were given shop training and also delivered goods to customers on trades bicycles. The girls started out keeping the shop clean and tidy and trained in serving by a senior female member of the staff. There was a bookkeepers office at which the customers paid for their purchases. The large houses with staff usually were set up with a monthly billing account.
In 1972 the company was taken over by the British American Tobacco Company, which seemed to sell off a lot of the smaller stores including Cookham. In turn the company then became Gateway Stores, which then became Somerfield’s with its headquarters in Bristol.
So you see around a hundred years ago Cookhan did have its very own grocery chain store. With bulk supplies direct from the producer to the consumer with no fancy packaging.