Tributes paid to ‘kind’ benefactor who transformed shopping in a Norfolk town
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.
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.
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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."
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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."
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."