BRATTLEBORO — Koffee Kup and its subsidiary in Brattleboro, Vermont Bread Company, were shuttered Monday morning, resulting in a loss of more than 90 local jobs.
According to a Tuesday news release from Dorset Partners, which specializes in “turnaround management and acquisitions,” Koffee Kup had been struggling to make ends meet for the past four years.
“For each of the last four years Koffee Kup has suffered substantial financial losses and was unable to find a way out of their troubles,” states the news release, which came from Jeff Sands, a “turnaround” specialist at Dorset Partners and the senior advisor in North America for American Industrial Acquisition Corp., which acquired a majority of the shares of Koffee Kup on April 1. “Employees, lenders, suppliers and customers all went above and beyond to support Koffee Kup during that time.”
The notice states that in the last six months, Koffee Kup was unsuccessful in finding new investors or a new operator for the business “who was willing to commit the resources necessary to bring the company back to health.”
On Monday, the state received a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice stating Koffee Kup was being shuttered and its 500 employees in Vermont would be out of jobs.
Sands told the Reformer Tuesday the closure was not for the purpose of providing a financial benefit to anyone.
“Four years of losses are the culprit,” said Sands. “Everyone wants a villain storyline, but there’s just not one there. This one just wasn’t salvageable.”
Sands said he was not at liberty to discuss how much Koffee Kup lost over those four years or what was responsible for the losses.
On April 1, a majority interest in Koffee Kup was purchased by AIAC, which invests in the manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, truck, rail, appliance, power generation, mining, oil and gas, packaging, pulp and paper, medical equipment and pharmaceutical sectors, according to its website.
On Monday, the WARN notice was issued. Sands wrote in the WARN notice that he was unable to provide an earlier notice to the state “as we were uncertain of the success of the efforts that we have been making to continue operating. Earlier notice of this unfortunate outcome would have been premature and would have jeopardized those very efforts.”
During Gov. Phil Scott’s regular Tuesday press conference, the governor and Michael Harrington, the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor, said they were reviewing the abrupt closure of Koffee Kup and Vermont Bread Company.
“We’ll be having conversations with the company to better understand what activities were occurring prior to issuing the [WARN] notice ...,” said Harrington. “I think we would agree, and I think the company would probably also agree, that they would have loved to have been able to give as much notice as possible. I also know that when companies are struggling and working on turnaround solutions, those are very protected pieces of information. And so you’re also not wanting to provide either false hope or false awareness of a company’s concerns or struggles.”
A direct competitor of Vermont Bread Company said if nothing is done in the next day or two to save the Brattleboro bakery, it might be too late.
“I was just on the phone with Hannaford today about replacing Vermont Bread on its shelves,” said Daniel Leader, of Bread Alone in Kingston, N.Y., who had to tell the supermarket chain it was impossible at this time.
“We can’t meet the demand without more employees,” said Leader.
Bread Alone, which was founded in 1983, has 220 employees, said Leader, and has 15 openings, from entry level work to drivers to cleaners to bakers.
Bread Alone will need even more employees when it opens its new carbon-neutral bakery in Boiceville, N.Y., said Leader.
To that end, Leader is offering to help move any former employees of Vermont Bread Company from southern Vermont to the Hudson Valley.
Leader said it’s hard to find employees, not just because the job market is tight, but also because it’s hard to find affordable housing in the Hudson Valley. He said that though he is a baker, Bread Alone is actually looking to purchase an apartment building to help its employees who need a place to live.
And the Reformer also received an email from Eric Blom, the director of community relations and external communications.
“We have many open positions at Hannaford, more than 50 full-time jobs available statewide, in a wide variety of positions,” he wrote.
Blom said those who might be interested in jobs at the supermarket can visit the store on Putney Road or log on to www.hannaford.com/about-us/careers.