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How it all began 

“In our lives we all encounter landmark events. In my time I seized two opportunities that led to other decisive moments in this extraordinary venture”.

Francis Holder


Today the history of the business spans 9 generations.

1720 - 1830

The Mayot family was made up of agricultural workers in the Artois region of northern France.

In 1889

Charlemagne Mayot ran a small bakery with his wife, Rue de la Mackellerie in Croix, near Lille. His son Edmond Mayot took over the family business in 1908.

In 1935

Suzanne Mayot, daughter of Edmond Mayot and granddaughter of Charlemagne Mayot, married Julien Holder. They set up a bakery, Rue des Sarrazins in Lille. From 1953, their son Francis Holder (current Chairman of the company) began working with his parents who, by then, had taken over a famous bakery-patisserie belonging to the PAUL family, Place de Strasbourg in Lille. The PAUL name was retained.

In 1958

On the death of his father, Francis HOLDER took over the family bakery in Lille with his mother and began to develop the business. “We were well known for our wide range of so-called 'Viennese' breads - the fancy breads that you can still buy in our shops today - at a time when most people only knew and liked white bread”.

In 1965

A Nouvelles Galeries department store opened in Lille. These were the early days of mass distribution in France. Francis HOLDER immediately offered to supply them with bread. The high quality of his bread was immediately recognised. From his new bakery premises at Lambersart, Francis HOLDER began to supply the developing mass retail market - Auchan, Nouvelles Galeries and later Monoprix. This was the first important stage in the history of the business which traded under the name “Moulin Bleu”.  

In 1970

He took over an area of industrial wasteland on the outskirts of Lille (La Madeleine) and built his first factory there (there are now 3) in order to supply the mass retail market. Today bread, Viennese and other pastry products, as well as a range of prepared dishes (frozen uncooked, frozen cooked and frozen fresh) are prepared and distributed to a number of well-known retail giants: Monoprix, Intermarché, Champion, Atac, etc.

In 1972

Soon Francis HOLDER began to hanker after his original work as a baker. While still running the “Moulin Bleu” business, he transformed the family bakery in Lille, installing a wood-fired oven that operated in full view of the customers. A simple idea, yet quite innovative for the time, was at the heart of the huge success of the business today - their bread was made in the purely traditional way: kneading, proving, shaping, finishing, long fermentation, baking, etc. Customers could rediscover the quality and taste of really good bread.

The trial that took place at Lille was a success. The PAUL network developed as shopping centres were springing up all over France. Francis HOLDER was a great believer in this new type of retailing and the PAUL name gradually became known all over France.

That was the second important stage in the history of the business. “At that time there was no key money to pay, setting up new shops was simple and cheaper than it is today … There are 3 important rules for setting up a successful PAUL shop: location, location and location!”

In later years, the location of PAUL shops was not restricted to shopping centres. Francis HOLDER and his teams took over carefully selected, prime locations at the centre of Paris and major provincial cities.

In 1993

The new black fronted bakeries appeared - a new look for a new approach. It was at this time that Francis HOLDER went back to basics and developed his range of speciality breads. He had meetings with millers who couldn't immediately see what they had to gain from his ideas. “For my bread I wanted a hardy variety of soft winter wheat grown according to the principles of sustainable agriculture. Camp Rémy wheat yields 30% less than other cereals. We had to pay the difference to the growers and millers who joined our venture!”

There are now over 300 French growers producing wheat for PAUL on more than 3,500 hectares and to very tight specifications.

Francis HOLDER, alongside his teams, makes daily checks on the quality of his products, their adherence to his recipes, the quality of service, the décor of his shops, etc. he has never lost sight of his original passion for baking bread and still works every week with the bakers who make his 'daily bread'.

In 2005

Even if he is not yet ready to retire, he has ensured that the next generation are ready to take over. “Today, more than ever, my sons and my daughter work with me to continue this extraordinary venture”.