Koffee Kup bakery closed suddenly on Monday, surprising Vermont officials — and the company's 156 Burlington employees.
"It was very abrupt," Gov. Phil Scott said at his regular COVID-19 briefing Tuesday. He added that regional development corporations around the state are looking for potential buyers to revive Koffee Kup. "We all learned of this very recently," he said.
Koffee Kup has been a mainstay for decades, and many Vermonters sought out the bakery's doughnuts and rolls in grocery and convenience stores.
"A family tradition since 1940," reads a sign on its industrial-size bakery complex on Riverside Avenue in Burlington. For years, Old North End residents were accustomed to sweet aromas wafting over the neighborhood in the early morning hours. Many employees of that facility were New Americans.
One potential buyer is a Rochester, N.Y., pie-maker who said he has made six offers on the business — and still wants it.
Michael Pinkowski owns SatisPie in New York and Batter Up, a waffle maker in Georgia. He said he made his purchase offers through Koffee Kup noteholder KeyBank, most recently on Monday.
But the owners, working with KeyBank to resolve their debt, closed the company — which includes bakeries in Brattleboro and Connecticut — on Monday, and immediately notified the state Department of Labor that the jobs had been terminated. In all, the company put 500 people out of work. In addition to its 156 people in Burlington, it employed 91 in Brattleboro, according to the Vermont Department of Labor.
“They were looking for different terms,” said Pinkowski, who still hopes the company can be resurrected, at least in part. “Each time we made an offer, we thought we were meeting the terms they were requesting, but they were rejected.”
A private equity firm called American Industrial Acquisition Corporation, or AIAC, acquired the financially struggling KUPCO on April 1, according to G2 Capital Advisors, which said it facilitated the transaction. KUPCO owns Koffee Kup, Vermont Bread in Brattleboro, and a bakery in North Grosvenor Dale, Conn. It delivered bread, buns, English muffins and doughnuts to more than 4,500 points in the Northeast before it closed, according to AICI.
Jeff Sands of Dorset Partners, a Vermont-based adviser to AIAC, said he was too busy to answer questions about the company Tuesday.
“It’s a bit of an iconic brand for us here in Vermont,” Scott said. “I’m hopeful maybe someone else could make a viable concern out of it.”
Pinkowski was hopeful too. He said he planned to talk with state officials and KeyBank about saving the part of the business that made bread and other products for other labels.
“That part is still viable,” said Pinkowski, whose two companies employ about 125 people in the two states. “Those customers have reached out to me through other parties. They have said, ‘Listen, if you can get this back, we want to do business with you.'”