By Mike Pomranz
Updated April 13, 2016

Some business owners undoubtedly try to remove homeless people who linger outside of their shops. But as French baker Michel Flamant found out, having someone watching over your business can have its benefits – and now he’s thanking a homeless man with the largest donation he’s ever received: an entire bakery.

Flamant told The Local he always tried to treat Jerome Aucant, the homeless man who hung around his bakery, with respect, greeting him each morning with a coffee and croissant. But in December, their relationship took an unexpected turn. Aucant, noticing that Flamant was stumbling around the bakery, called emergency services. It turned out that one of the bakery’s bread ovens had broken and was leaking poisonous, but odorless carbon monoxide gas. The 67-year-old baker ended up having to spend 12 days in the hospital, but things could have been worse. “If Jerome wasn't around that day I would have been a goner,” Flamant said.

Upon his return, Flamant thanked Aucant by giving the 37-year-old a part-time job at his bakery in Dole, France. The former beggar excelled at the work so Flamant, who had been looking to retire anyway, decided to sell his business to Aucant for the price of 1 euro. “What's more important, money or life? I don't care about money. I'm not rich but I don't care. I want to be free, I want to take it easy now,” Flamant was quoted as saying. “And also, if this makes him happy…”

Flamant is helping Aucant through to September at which point the lifelong baker will finally retire. "Michel has given me a real gift,” Aucant said, “and now... I want to be worthy of it.”