Wednesday January 23, 2013
BRATTLEBORO -- Ownership of Vermont Bread Company is coming back to the state in which it was founded way back in 1978.
The Brattleboro bread bakery was purchased by Charter Baking, a New York-based private equity firm, in 2005.
On Tuesday morning, a spokesman for Burlington-based Koffee Kup Bakery told the Reformer that it has purchased Vermont Bread from Charter.
"We've worked with the folks at Vermont Bread for quite a few years," said the spokesman, a member of Koffee Kup's board of directors who asked that he not be named. "There are customers we don't have in common. It's those types of synergies that will grow the business."
Under the leadership of Lisa Lorimer, Vermont Bread Company grew from a startup in 1978 in an 800-square-foot barn in Guilford with a pizza oven and a home-sized mixer. It now bakes its products in a facility on Cotton Mill Hill and employs about 70 people.
In 2005, a private equity firm purchased Vermont Bread Company, The Baker, Matthew's All Natural Baking and Rudi's Organic to create Charter Baking. Doug Radi, of Charter Baking, had no comment on the sale and referred the Reformer back to Koffee Kup.
"It makes sense for them to look at exiting some of their investments," said the spokesman. "It's part of their strategy. As a family-owned business, we don't have that type of pressure. We can take a much longer timeline. We are not looking to exit this investment at all."
Koffee Kup has distributed some of Vermont Bread Company's products to its customers and is excited to broaden the reach of both Koffee Kup and Vermont Bread, said the spokesman. He said Koffee Kup plans no changes in Brattleboro, Burlington or its facility in Connecticut.
Koffee Kup Bakery got its start in 1925 in Troy, when Cherie Roberge opened a small bakery, making bread and rolls which he delivered to local stores via horse-drawn wagon.
"We are a small company and we will remain a small company," said the spokesman. "We are happy the way we are. You don't need to be a huge company to deliver good products at a good value to your customers in a timely and customer-friendly basis."
When Cherie Roberge died, his son, Romeo, took over the bakery and ran it for a time until he decided to move to Burlington to work for the National Biscuit Company.
Romeo's son, Rosaire, began his career working at Fassetts Bakery while still a student, but in 1940 he opened Koffee Kup Bakery, delivering doughnuts on his bicycle until after WWII when he bought a small delivery truck and frying kettle. In 1969, Rosaire handed off management of Koffee Kup to his son, Ron, who began his career as a baker when he was 14.
Koffee Kup moved into its present facility on Riverside Avenue in Burlington in 1964, and now employs 150 people. In 1971, Koffee Kup made the jump from crullers and doughnuts to breads, producing grinder rolls, dinner rolls, fresh bread and more.
Koffee Kup is known for its iconic "Mr. Cruller," a character created by Ron's wife, Carol. Its products can be found in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and northern New York.
Vermont Bread Company makes products such as buns and rolls, English muffins and multigrain breads. They are made without the use of synthetic pesticides, high-fructose corn syrup, chemical additives, artificial ingredients, irradiated ingredients, GMO products or white sugar.
Vermont Bread Company has been a major sponsor of Strolling of the Heifers since its founding 11 years ago.
The spokesman said he had not heard of the annual event in Brattleboro, but once again reassured the Reformer that "nothing is going to change."
Orly Munzing, the founder of the Strolling of the Heifers, said Vermont Bread has been a silver sponsor of the annual event "from Day One."
"They help sponsor the Slow Living Summit, the Tour de Heifer and are one of the key sponsors in the various cookoffs we have each year that connect people to local products and local food," said Munzing.
In addition, Vermont Bread products are served during the Tour de Heifer, the Slow Living Summit and the Farmers Breakfast on the Sunday of the Strolling weekend.
Bob Audettecan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.