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Tributes paid to 'kind' benefactor who transformed shopping in a Norfolk town

PUBLISHED: 14:35 22 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:17 22 July 2019

Michael Baker, MD of Bakers & Larners in Holt. Pic: Archant library

Michael Baker, MD of Bakers & Larners in Holt. Pic: Archant library

There was only one topic of conversation in Holt on Monday, July 22, and that was the sad death of one of its most prominent citizens, Michael Baker.

Conversation in Holt has been dominated by the sad death of Michael Baker. Pictures: David BaleConversation in Holt has been dominated by the sad death of Michael Baker. Pictures: David Bale

Mr Baker, who has died aged 72, was instrumental in shaping the Bakers and Larners department store in Holt, after taking over as its boss in 1974.

During his time there, the number of staff rose from less than 20 to more than 275, and the turnover increased from £175,000 to more than £20m.

Shoppers and business owners in the town said his death was a shock and that he would be missed.

Diane Bishop, manager at the Feathers Hotel, said: "He would have a meeting and come in here for lunch three or four times a year.

Holt remembers Michael Baker, who has died aged 72. Diane Bishop, manager of the Feathers Hotel in Holt. Pictures: David Bale Holt remembers Michael Baker, who has died aged 72. Diane Bishop, manager of the Feathers Hotel in Holt. Pictures: David Bale

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"He was very pleasant and remembered everybody's name. He was always lovely to me.

"He was part of the town, and he was a character, especially with his bow-tie. It's really sad and a shock to everyone. He did so much for the town. Most people in the town knew him."

Diane Newman, a sales assistant at Starlings of Holt, said: "I worked at Bakers And Larners for 16 years. He was a very fair man, and he helped bring a lot of people into the town. It's a shame and a sad loss. I enjoyed my time at Bakers and Larners. You had a bit of a laugh with him."

Bakers & Larners of Holt. Pic: ArchantBakers & Larners of Holt. Pic: Archant

A shopper, who did not wish to be named, said: "One of the main reasons people come to Holt is Bakers and Larners."

Meanwhile, a couple from west Norfolk, said: "I love the shop - it's old-fashioned. It's like 'Are You Being served?', with the old values. You go into supermarkets now, and you don't get that kind of service. Staff at Bakers are helpful but they don't hassle you."

A resident added: "He was a generous benefactor and a kind man. He sponsored the town's rugby club and did a lot for the town."

Helena Riik, from Weybourne, said: "He did a lot for the town. When he bought Budgens, he tried to use local produce and vegetables, which helped small businesses."

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