Oral histories are intimate conversations between and among people who have generously agreed to share these recordings with BHS’s archives and researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. BHS abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.
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The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. Where provided, transcripts created prior to 2008 or commissioned by a third party other than BHS, serve as a guide to the interview and are not considered verbatim. More recent transcripts commissioned by BHS are nearly verbatim copies of the recorded interview, and as such may contain the natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, and repetitions that are common in conversation. The decision for their inclusion was made because BHS gives primacy to the audible voice and also because some researchers do find useful information in these verbal patterns. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator’s speech while editing the material for the standards of print.
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[Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer’s First name Last name], [Month DD, YYYY], [Title of Collection], [Call #]; Brooklyn Historical Society.
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Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan
June 25, 2010
Call number: 2008.031.2.001
0:16 - Introduction; his background in Canada; IKEA work abroad; coming to Brooklyn to realize store, find a home; NYC market, Red Hook for IKEA; site, waterfront history, environment
7:48 - Zoning, permits, beaurocratic hurdles over years; '04 impact study, brownfield, dock challenges; readying land & foundations
15:11 - Ground surveys; engaging public; job creation; team of coworkers, commuting locally; transportation concerns
23:01 - Involving NY Water Taxi, shuttle bus, polling public, MTA bus; marketing around transportation
30:10 - Reporting results, adjusting hours of transit; distribution of customers, most appealing items in NYC; retail work & school led to mgmt. program & home furnishings career; IKEA opportunity, interviews
37:45 - 1st IKEA job, moving on to expansion, other stores; managing 1st IKEA, opening day jitters; brand recognition; HQ and Swedish values of IKEA
45:25 - Working smart; food & dining at store; sustainability efforts: products, then store, solar panels, green roof, reused materials for products
52:54 - Efficiency of flat-packing, online meetings; roof structure; respect for steelworkers; recommending Pino Deserio as narrator, his background
61:10 - Inspired by Deserio's history with waterfront; emphasis on community relations: block associations; newspaper coverage; family becoming New Yorkers; energy of NYC
Oral History Interview with Michael Baker
Michael Baker was born in Canada in 1959 and came to New York City to open the IKEA home furnishings store in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. As a college student, he had worked in retail. Baker went on to learn more in a management program and began a career with home furnishings retailers. After he was hired on by IKEA, he helped the company expand globally, until he was asked to not only oversee the construction of a store in Canada, but stay on as store manager. In the mid-2000s, he did the same for IKEA Brooklyn. As of the 2010 interview, he and his family were residing in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn; an area they deemed to have the best schools.
In this interview, Michael Baker briefly discusses growing up in Canada and how he got involved in retail store management. He talks in great detail about opening the IKEA in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn; from negotiations with the City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the local community boards to finding bedrock for driving in anchor piles, and how the home furnishings store wanted to maintain the site's waterfront history. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.
The Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Business and industry series features a dynamic range of narrators. Some are well-known in their communities and others are well-known in their field. This ongoing series focuses on Brooklyn workplaces and the experiences of these narrators, as well as documents local, national, and international history. The narrators often discuss their positions as owners or operators of businesses. The oldest narrator in this series was born in 1920.
CitationBaker, Michael, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan, June 25, 2010, Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Business and industry, 2008.031.2.001; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Baker, Michael
- Deserio, Pino
- Ikea (Firm)
- Todd Shipyards Corporation. Brooklyn Division
- Business enterprises
- Economic conditions
- Environmental impact analysis
- Furniture industry and trade
- Local transit
- Retail trade
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- New York (N.Y.)
- Red Hook (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidVoices of Brooklyn oral histories: Business and industry