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In Memoriam

Bruce Baker - Class Of 1973 VIEW PROFILE

Bruce Baker

February 2024 - We have been informed that Bruce Baker class of 1973 died January 9, 2024. We will add his obituary information once received from the family.






From his sister Tammy B. Moeller class of 1979

"Thank you for posting about my brother, Bruce Baker (our sister is Jill K. Baker). There's a lot of information about his life's works - and his passion for Bonsai. From American Bonsai Society Journal:"

Bruce W. Baker

"Bruce Baker, 68, died at his home in Beulah, MI, on January 9, 2024. Bruce first saw bonsai at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, in 1977. Immediately upon returning home to Michigan, he started cultivating trees in pots, and within 10 years had won many awards for his collected and carved bonsai trees, including Best of Show at the Mid-America Bonsai Exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden. During his bonsai "career" (he always made it clear that he was an amateur), he taught at dozens of bonsai clubs, demonstrated at major bonsai conventions, authored numerous articles and a regular column on bonsai, and served on the boards of the Ann Arbor Bonsai Society, Bonsai Association of Michigan, Bonsai Clubs International, and the World Bonsai Friendship Federation.

"Bruce's bonsai collection has been donated to Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI, and will be housed there beginning in the summer of this year. Contributions in his memory to the maintenance and upkeep of the Baker-Bull Bonsai Friendship Garden and other bonsai at FMG may be made by check to:

"Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Foundation, with a note on the Memo line of the check, "Baker-Bull Bonsai Friendship Fund" and mailed to:

"Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation, 2929 Walker NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49544."

Bruce Baker Bonsai Channel on YouTube 

"I first saw bonsai at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA in 1977. Within 10 years I had won many awards for my collected and carved bonsai trees, including Best of Show at the Mid-America Bonsai Exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Along the way I have taught at dozens of bonsai clubs, demonstrated at major bonsai conventions, authored numerous articles and a regular column on bonsai, and served on boards such as the Ann Arbor Bonsai Society, Bonsai Association of Michigan, Bonsai Clubs International, and the World Bonsai Friendship Federation. Much of what fueled my love of bonsai was the kindness, experience and intelligence of so many great friends and mentors, including, most notably, Jack Wikle and Jerry Meislik. I’ve also been privileged to know and learn from many great professionals including John Naka, Vaughn Banting, Chase Rosade, Dan Robinson, and Bill Valavanis, just to name a few. This channel is to showcase my current work."

Bruce Baker Bonsai on Facebook

profile for Bruce 


Northshore Tools, LLC website 

"NorthShore Tools, LLC is a product development and sourcing company founded by Bruce Baker. Its consumer products division, Radius Garden, a leading supplier of advanced, innovative garden tools, was sold to the American Lawn Mower Company in 2019.  Bruce  has developed and patented dozens of consumer and commercial products; including private label products for True Value, Home Hardware, ULine, and others.  He founded Radius Garden, LLC, a garden tools company and co-founded Giddy Up, LLC, a children's products company after spending 20 years in the software business."

RadiusGarden.com blog June 28, 2017

"People ask me sometimes how I came up with the idea for the Root Slayer.  Well, it's a long story, but there was one specific incident that led me to develop the shovel.

"First, I'll share some background experiences.  I've been a hobbyist landscaper for most of my life.  From clearing my grandmother's beds of Lily-of-the-Valley roots, to home gardening, to collecting wild trees for bonsai, to native plant landscaping, to transplanting and dividing hundreds of hostas and daylilies, I've had more than my share of experiences coping with interfering roots.  My own yard in Ann Arbor, Michigan is completely filled with a dense network of Norway Maple, Black Walnut, White Cedar, Sugar Maple, Dogwood, Lilac, Serviceberry, Paperbark Maple and even Dawn Redwood roots.  It's nearly impossible to plunge a round-point shovel or traditional spade into some areas of the ground.  When I decided to replace the grass in part of my front yard with hostas I had to resort to using an axe and pruning saw just to get into the soil in some spots!

"You would think that after all of this experience the idea of developing a shovel that would make all of these tasks much easier would be an obvious one.  You would think, too, that having run a company for more than 10 years that designs shovels that this would be a no-brainer.  Well, it wasn't." (continue to blog for complete article)


RadiusGarden.com blog January 21, 2019

The Root Slayer Shovel and The Curse of Oak Island

"Forty-one years ago in 1978 Bruce Baker, founder of Radius Garden, was a freshman at the University of Michigan School of Law.  Although he never met his fellow classmate, Marty Lagina, they shared something in common: in the freshmen class yearbook their photos had inadvertently been transposed.  Bruce Baker’s photo was identified as “Martin Lagina” and Marty Lagina’s photo was labelled “Bruce Baker.”  Strangely, they never met each other during three years of law school.

"Neither went on to practice law.  Baker’s career led him to the software industry, the toy industry, and finally to lawn and garden and landscaping tools.  Meanwhile Lagina became active in dozens of ventures including Michigan’s winery, Mari Vineyards, and the popular History Channel series, The Curse of Oak Island...." (continue to blog for complete article.)

Published April 18, 2007 by MLive by Shawn Smith

EXECUTIVE PROFILE: Bruce Baker, Founder, Radius Garden LLC

Bruce Baker has been a gardener all his life, with a special interest in bonsais, and he says that he's always been interested in tools. For his current business, Radius Garden, the serial entrepreneur has combined his two interests. For the past three years Baker has developed a range of ergonomic gardening tools that he now sells all over the world.

"We have recently added distribution in Canada, Europe, Japan and Hong Kong," he says.

Sales have shot up dramatically since Radius started producing the tools in 2005.

"We sold over 100,000 tools in 2006 and overall sales in the first three months of 2007 will exceed total 2006 sales," Baker says.

Baker got the idea to make ergonomic gardening tools on a business trip to China where his products are now being manufactured. He had traveled to China on behalf of another local start-up, Giddy-Up, a publisher of children's activity books. One of the people accompanying on the trip him was GiddyUp's product manager, an avid gardener who had injured herself gardening.

"She had used the product exactly as it was meant to be used and still she'd injured herself. It struck me there had to be a better way and that there was a business in it," Baker says.

In collaboration with U-M industrial design professor Jan-Henrik Andersen who helped with the three-dimensional work, Baker came up with a very distinctive product line, which he named Natural Radius Grip or NRG tools. Made from a durable thermoplastic called Santoprene, they have bright green curved grips and are lighter than conventional tools. A variety of patents are pending on the design.

This year, Radius will launch a new product line of longer-handled tools. "Every year we will introduce new products," Baker predicts.

He says his is a very efficient business model, with a small staff and most of the growth coming from increased business with the same number of customers. Apart from him, there are two full-time employees.

"Everybody has to work hard," Baker says. "What I like best is getting up and not knowing what I'm going to do that day."

Baker travels to China three to four times a year. "I spend a long time in the factories. I try to know exactly what's going on in the process," he says. "You have to be very clear if you want high quality."

For next year, he's planning to increase capacity substantially, with new investment in capital equipment. "You have to plan volume far in advance," Baker says. He will also target more mass-market retailers.

"As products begin to saturate in small independent retailers, we are looking for larger outlets, regional chains," he says. "We will differentiate our products so that small independents still have an advantage."

Guiding principle: Leave things better than you found them.

Best way to keep competitive edge: Take calculated, but scary risks.

Mentors: My parents, who taught me generosity and common sense.

Yardstick of success: Thank you notes from customers.

How do you motivate people: I care about them.

Goal yet to be achieved: Even par on Michigan Blue golf course.

Best advice you ever got: To invest in memories.

Best advice for others: Your first instinct is your best instinct.

Best business decision: Starting my own company.

Worst business decision: Starting my own company.

Biggest missed opportunity: Not investing in Microsoft in 1986.

Biggest management myth: That experience is more important than character and intelligence.

Most-respected competitor: Fiskars.

Word that best describes you: Contemplative.

What keeps you up at night: Worrying about people I care about.

Pet peeve: Poor grammar in print.

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate chip cookies.

Person most interested in meeting: Abraham Lincoln.

Three greatest passions: Family, friends, customers.

First choice for a new career: Gardener.

Favorite quote: "Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical words are not false but nonsensical." - Wittgenstein

Favorite cause: Local arts.

Most influential book: "The Inquisitory" by Robert Pinget.

Favorite movie: "The Four Hundred Blows" by Francois Truffaut.

Favorite restaurants: Fournos, Sedona, Ariz. and Charlie Beinlich's, Northbrook, Ill.

Favorite vacation spot: Crystal Lake in Benzie County.

Favorite way to spend free time: Gardening.

What you drive: Beat up '02 Chevy Trailblazer.

Published April 7, 2008 by MLive by Tina Reed

The way he tells the story, Bruce Baker has no business being in the garden tool industry.

The former software company employee and former executive for a children's activity book company was on a business trip to China when he noticed one of the women in his group with blisters on her hands.

"From gardening," she explained.

Baker said he realized there must be a gap in the market if so many gardeners -- many of them women -- complained of injuries to their hands and wrists while using traditional garden tools.

Now the founder and president of Radius Garden LLC in Ann Arbor, Baker and his employees created trowels, cultivators, spades and shovels with curved handle grips, redesigned blades and bright colors like a lime green for a product line that looks very different from your grandmother's tools.

Radius Garden tools are sold in several catalogues and are in hardware stores locally and around the country. The tools have also been featured on NBC's The Today Show and Oprah.

But it was no easy trip getting the business underway, Baker said.

In 2004, Baker started the company, which has five employees, only to find resistance to getting his product into catalogues and trade shows. On one occasion early on, a person in charge of allowing companies into a trade show wouldn't let Radius Garden attend because he didn't think the idea would catch on.

"He said, 'I think you're crazy,'" Baker said. "I asked him, 'Are you married? Give me your address and I'll send some of the tools to your wife.' I overnighted them to her and he called back to let us in the show."

Q: What makes your tools attractive to buyers?

A: Go into any store that sells garden tools and you'll see a bunch of tools that look like they are made for men. They are ugly, unattractive, oversized. But about 88 percent of the money spent in lawn or garden is spent by women.

Q: What makes these tools ergonomic?

A: If you think about it, gardening is a really physical activity ... The way tools are traditionally made forces you to hold your arm like this (he makes a gripped fist and bends his wrist at a 90 degree angle) and risk injury ... those little injuries you get over time don't go away and they add up. With this, you don't even have to close your hand and grip to push down on the handle. You can use it in a wrist neutral position.

Q: Why do you travel to China for business so often?

A: You have to be there in person to see exactly what's going into your tools ... I won't sell a product until I've been to every site where every piece of the product is made. I'm looking for things like, 'Are the workers safe, is the place ventilated the way you would want it to be, are the workers wearing earplugs? ... I feel as much the responsibility to those people in the factories as I do the people I'm selling my product to."

Q: Do you garden?

A: I like to landscape. I grow a natural garden and I like to dig in the ground. I like to use shovels a lot ... Gardening is a great business to be in because people only do it for one reason: Because it's fun and it's a way to relax."

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business?

A: I had a friend, Rick, who is in this industry and he was like 'the rabbi.' I went to him three times and told him the idea for my business and each time he told me not to do it. So I would probably say, 'Don't do it,' no matter what the idea is. It's only those who do it after everyone tells them not to who should (go forward with their idea) because then they just might have the stick-to-it-ness to succeed. My advice: 'Don't do it.'

Published March 17, 1957 Lansing State Journal

Click here to see Bruce's last Profile entry.