BRATTLEBORO — Vermont Bread Company may be back in business soon.
During a meeting of the Vermont Economic Progress Council on Thursday afternoon, the VEPC board approved a Vermont Employment Growth Incentive of nearly $837,000 to East Baking Company of Holyoke, Mass., “for activity to commence May 14,” according to minutes from the meeting.
The VEGI incentive provides an annual cash payment to a business that promises to employ a certain number of people at a specific wage level, usually a certain percentage above minimum wage, and make a certain amount in capital investments over seven years.
In addition to the incentive, East Baking Company also received approval for a Labor Market Area enhancement, which means the benefit to the company if it meets the benchmarks as promised could be up to $1.2 million.
Dan Serra, the owner of East Baking Company, said he had no comment.
Adam Grinold, the executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, who has been working behind the scenes on finding a buyer for the company, which abruptly closed on April 26, also had no comment.
On April 1, Koffee Kup Bakery, which purchased Vermont Bread in 2013, was acquired by American Industrial Acquisition Corporation. But only 25 days later, employees of locations in Brattleboro, Burlington, and North Grosvenor Dale, Conn., arrived for their regular Monday morning shifts only to be told to go home, that they no longer have jobs.
The closure was blamed on an inability to find investors to take on debt accumulated by Koffee Kup over the past four years, said Jeff Sands, a “turnaround” specialist at Dorset Partners and the senior advisor in North America for American Industrial Acquisition Corporation.
The closure was so abrupt, a class action suit was filed by employees, alleging AIAC had violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988.
Megan Sullivan, the executive director of the VEPC, told the Reformer that the details of the VEGI application submitted by East Baking Company, which first opened in Ludlow, Mass., in 2004, are confidential because they contain proprietary information about the company.
The VEPC board also approved a VEGI application for nearly $1.2 million in incentives for the Burlington facility.
It is unknown at this time if East Baking Company is also interested in the Connecticut facility.
East Baking Company started out as East Street Bagel Cafe in 2004 in Ludlow, Mass., before moving to a 28,000-square-foot facility in Holyoke, in December 2010.
“We manufacture and distribute fresh and frozen bakery products throughout the United States,” states East Baking Company’s website.
East Baking Company promotes its ability to make products for sale under other brand names and also sells its own branded products.
“Our numerous baking facilities provide extended delivery coverage throughout the United States,” states the website. “Our extensive network of fresh baking facilities, and frozen baking facilities enable us to deliver you the exact product you desire. From sourcing flour to delivery of your baked items, we manage and control the entire process.”
According to federal government documents, since 2012, East Baking Company has received nearly $43 million in government contracts. Slightly more than 80 percent of those contracts were awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture. Another 20 percent of the contracts were awarded by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
According to the government documents, products provided to the USDA and the Bureau of Prisons included baked goods and roasted nuts.
“A leader in Individually Wrapped (IDW) bakery products for years, we specialize in manufacturing and co-packing your school nutrition needs,” states the website.
A spokeswoman for Key Bank, the primary holder of debt for Koffee Kup, said she couldn’t comment on client accounts or negotiations due to client privacy laws.