Tributes paid to Sunderland's First Lady of baking, Gianna Müller, 92

Tributes have been paid to the woman at the heart of a Sunderland baking institution after she died aged 92.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 11:00 am
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 2:29 pm
Gianna Müller, seen here in 2010 with husband Max, their sons Max (left) and Bruno outside their Villette Road shop.
Gianna Müller, seen here in 2010 with husband Max, their sons Max (left) and Bruno outside their Villette Road shop.

Gianna Müller helped her late husband Max to start the bakery that bears their name in 1959, less than ten years after she moved to the city from Switzerland.

Today there are Müller shops on Sea Road, Blandford Street and the original shop on Villette Road.

Gianna was Italian, from the village of Gaiarine north of Venice, and Max was Swiss. The couple married in Switzerland in July 1950 and a month later they moved to Sunderland.

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Gianna Müller, who started Müller's bakery with her husband Max, has died aged 92. Picture from Leah Müller.

They met while Gianna, who was one of eight children in the Pasquali family, worked as a domestic help in Switzerland after World War Two.

Max spoke little English when they arrived in Sunderland, while Gianna spoke none. However, Max was a master baker who took a job at Smyth’s on Cleveland Road.

Nine years after moving to England, the Müllers set up their own bakery which is still going strong and their three children Bruno, Max and Sonia all work in the family business today.

In the late 1950s the couple were friendly with a policeman, whose wife and sister owned a bakery on Villette Road. They wanted to retire and asked the Müllers take over.

While Max baked the pastries and cakes that were renowned across the city, Gianna, a self-confessed chatterbox, was out the front of the Villette Road shop charming the customers.

Speaking in 2013, she said: “The people of Sunderland were fantastic. Kind and friendly. We’ve had customers who’ve been coming since we opened. Sunderland people are like Italian people. They are warm and they love family.”

Max passed away in 2012 aged 86. Gianna leaves behind her three children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Granddaughter Victoria Müller posted on social media: “You were loving, beautiful, generous, energetic, loyal, immaculate, charming, completely unaware of how funny you were and the glue that held us all together. At 92 you were still, in your words, ‘not daft.’”

Gianna’s funeral is at 2pm on Wednesday, February 12 at St Cecilia’s Church.