Kenny Dye

A small tin shed on the edge of Norwich, once home to Ken's Corn Stores, was the beginning of a large Norfolk enterprise started by Kenny Dye.

A small tin shed on the edge of Norwich, once home to Ken's Corn Stores, was the beginning of a large Norfolk enterprise started by Kenny Dye.

Entrepreneur Mr Dye, who died on the eve of his 76th birthday, expanded the business into a multi-million pound retail operation, the Taverham Nursery and Garden Centre.

He started his first business in 1958 on a small site on Reepham Road, Hellesdon, near the inner ring road selling feed for pigeons, rabbits and cage birds including canaries.

He had shown early signs of enterprise before his teenage years by keeping goats during the second world war and running a successful milk round. At that time, cow's milk was strictly rationed.

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He went to school at Hellesdon.

Always fascinated by aeroplanes, he remembered standing on the roof watching the fighters at nearby RAF Horsham St Faith and seeing Douglas Bader's plane clip a hedge.

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His mother wanted her son to get a “proper” job, preferably wearing a white collar.

So, he worked with the city's public health department at Churchman House but watching the clock was not his style. He also worked on the land at Corporation Farm, Whitlingham, but thinning sugar beet crops was no way to get on.

His interest in breeding rabbits and his success at national shows led to a major career change - by starting a specialist shop selling feed for small animals and cage birds. A winner at national shows in London at Olympia and also the Alexandra Palace, where he was awarded a trophy for the best rabbit bred in Britain, he spotted a gap in the market, and started Ken's Corn Stores.

It was a great success and, by chance, he went to an auction when Taverham Nursery was sold in 1966. He bought the site and for several years grew strawberries on the land. By this stage, he had sold the name of his original business but managed to buy it back later.

In 1981, having done his research, he started a garden centre at Taverham while also exporting garden furniture to the continent. But he had identified another growth opportunity and the business, which covered some 17 acres on the edge of Norwich just kept growing. The business complex will be closed on Friday as a mark of respect.

He had a very dry, typically Norfolk sense of humour, and detested pomposity. He had a sense of vision and was always keen to tackle the next project. Once a venture had been started, he had the gift of recruiting good and loyal staff to run it as he looked for another challenge.

Mr Dye served as a Tory councillor on Broadland Council from the mid-1980s representing Hevingham, Marsham and Stratton Strawless rising to become deputy chairman. However, he was never keen on the limelight and declined to serve as chairman.

A family man, who enjoyed cricket and played tennis, he was devoted to his family including young daughter, Helena.

He really enjoyed travel and in one year managed to visit 10 countries. Although he married some 12 years ago at the Medici Palace, Florence, where he had another home, Norfolk was always his first love.

He leaves a widow, Sally, daughter Helena and was father-figure and mentor to Peter and Emma.

The funeral will be held at St Edmund's Church, Taverham, on Friday, at 11.30am.

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