More than 200 Vermonters are out of a job after the 80-year-old Koffee Kup Bakery in Burlington abruptly closed its doors Monday, citing “substantial financial losses” over the last four years.
According to the bakery’s website, the business started in 1940, making donuts and delivering them by bicycle to mom-and-pop stores in Burlington. The company, known for its bread, donuts and rolls, acquired Vermont Bread in 2013.
At the Burlington facility, a sign on the door Tuesday read: “Effective Immediately: Koffee Kup Bakery and its subsidiaries will be under full lockdown for at least the next 60 days.”
Shutting down operations throughout the state and Northeast has affected hundreds of employees and their families. According to the Vermont Labor Department, nearly 225 workers in Burlington and Brattleboro lost their jobs, as depot employees like Steven Cox, a route sales representative for the company in St. Johnsbury.
“It feels like a slap in the face, if you want to know the truth about it,” said Cox, who worked for the company for nearly two years. He said he got a phone call at the start of his shift, with news he didn’t see coming.
“It was a regular work day. Like, 3 o’clock rolls around, and I get the phone call and it’s like, ‘Hey, don’t worry about showing up for work, you don’t have a job no more,'” he said.
On Tuesday, Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said his agency is reviewing the company’s Notice of Potential Layoff, which requires 45 days’ notice to the state and 30 days’ notice to employees. Koffee Kup’s notice was only filed Monday afternoon, catching even Gov. Phil Scott off-guard.
“I knew that there was some financial issues over the last year or so, but it took me by surprise that they shut down so quickly yesterday,” Scott said. “I’m hopeful that maybe someone else could make a viable concern out of it. We’ll see what happens.”
Harrington said the state statute “does have exceptions or exemptions to the statue depending on certain criteria.” Violations could result in administrative penalties and fines of up to $500 for each day they failed to provide notice.
“It will really depend on what work was going on, what conversations were happening, what was the company doing in the days leading up to the notice, and at what point were they fairly confident that it would result in a closure,” said Harrington.
Former route sales representative Paul Crepeault says he didn’t miss a day of work since the pandemic began. Now, he’s unemployed with no severance pay.
“It’s very frustrating for me,” he said. “I have a five and six-year-old child at home. I have an 18-year-old special needs child at home.
“By not giving any sort of notice at all, it makes me feel like they really proved we meant absolutely nothing to them,” said Crepeault.
Harrington says there are employers in the state that are hiring, and that the state will help those who were laid off access unemployment benefits and re-employment services. He said comany officials are working with the department.
“If things remain the same, and we still get the level of responsiveness that we’ve seen over the past day hopefully we can have these answers relatively quickly,” said Harrington.
New York City-based American Industrial Acquisition Corporation bought the company a few weeks ago, according to a news release from G2 Capital Advisors, a financial advisor to the company. Jeff Sands of Dorset Partners, a financial advisor to the owner, sent out a written release about the closing.
According to the bakery’s website, the business started in 1940 with the owner making donuts and delivering them by bicycle to mom-and-pop stores in Burlington. After a three-year hiatus during World War II, the business started up again and eventually moved to its Riverside Avenue location in 1964. The company acquired Vermont Bread in 2013.
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