1st Quarter 2017 Lending Exceeds $1,000,000
Synergy has characterized Art LaPlante and Mark Royer’s working partnership for decades. The two first met years ago when Art was managing a building materials store in Barton. Mark, a customer, was in timberwork, specializing in specialty lumber. “So Mark started buying logs from land owners for me,” Art recalls.
Time went by and Art became manager of Colton’s Hardware in Orleans. Mark was firmly ensconced in his family’s financial planning firm. Then Barton landmark E.M. Brown Hardware came up for sale. All of Art’s friends told him to go for it. “I was the marketing, merchandizing and retail guy,” says Art. “But I didn’t have experience on the financial side. There was no one who could do the books.”
The two purchased E.M. Brown in the fall of 2007 and the rest is (very successful) Barton history.
Ten years into it, Art describes his partnership with Mark as knowing instinctively who should handle what. “Something will come up, and I’ll say to Mark ‘Why don’t you take that?’ or he’ll say it to me,” Art notes with a laugh.
In 2013, the old general store next door to E.M. Brown went on the market. Without knowing exactly how they’d end up using the space, the two purchased it, figuring they’d “figure it out.”
Then in 2016, nearby sugaring equipment retailer Lapierre USA suddenly closed. Mark and Art immediately recognized the opportunity: E.M. Brown and Lapierre had a significant overlapping customer base (another synergy!). Opening their own sugaring equipment business made too much sense not to consider.
Plans in hand, they approached the Vermont Community Loan Fund. “We met with Raymond and Dan at the Loan Fund, and talked about our goals, and how we could serve the community with a new sugaring equipment business,” Art recalls. With the closing of Lapierre, sugarers would have to drive at least 25 miles for supplies and service. With plenty of sugaring in their neck of the woods, Art and Mark saw it as a synergistic case of supply meeting demand. The Loan Fund saw it that way, too.
Art and Mark used VCLF financing to purchase inventory, and the Barton Maple Company launched in time for the 2017 sugaring season. In the old general store location, former Lapierre’s employee Patrick Thompson manages the shop while Art and Mark keep E.M. Brown moving forward. Financing helped retain one part-time and three full-time jobs, with another job expected to be created this year.
“Stainless steel tubing, storage tanks, pumps, evaporators. If not for the Loan Fund, we never could have gotten our inventory up in time for sugaring season,” Art reflects. “Now we have it. And if we don’t have it in stock, we can have it within a day.”
VCLF financing was also provided to:
Awakening Sanctuary/Ethan Allen Residence, Burlington
By 2030, one-quarter of Vermont’s population will be 65 or older, with the number of disabled seniors also significantly on the rise. Awakening Sanctuary was established in 1998 to address seniors’ need for affordable, high-quality residential care. Having purchased Bristol House, a Level III residential care home in 2005, they acquired the Ethan Allen Residence (EAR) in 2013 with financing from VCLF. In 2017, Awakening Sanctuary again approached VCLF to help finance renovations to EAR, including a new elevator. EAR serves 39 residents, 18 of whom are Medicaid-qualifying. The loan also results in the preservation of 40 jobs. http://www.ethanallenresidence.org/
Butterfly Bakery of Vermont, Montpelier
Butterfly Bakery started out in 2003 making chocolate truffles, then added baked goods a year later. But it was the introduction of signature hot sauces in 2015 that increased sales dramatically. Sales of the locally-sourced pepper sauces have risen such that the business outgrew its space at the Vermont Food Venture Center. Butterfly has relocated to a larger commercial space in Montpelier, and applied to VCLF’s Equipment Access Program, which helped them lease the specialized kitchen equipment they needed to keep growing. https://butterflybakeryvt.com/
Green Wolf Logging & Sugaring, Bakersfield
Andre Villeneuve was a self-employed carpenter looking to start-up a maple sugaring business during the quieter winter/spring months. He’ll use a VCLF loan to purchase acreage abutting his current property, and to purchase sugaring equipment. Initially, he’ll sell his sap to a sugarhouse. Within five years, he plans to build his own sugarhouse where he will boil and sell his syrup. The loan creates one full-time job, and adds 32 acres to Vermont’s working landscape.
Grow Compost of Vermont, Moretown
Grow Compost produces organic composting soil for use in horticulture, landscape, land treatment, and residential venues. They also sell food waste to farmers as animal feed. In 2016, further expansion of their hauling operation necessitated the purchase of a truck, financed by the Loan Fund. The loan resulted in the preservation of seven jobs, and the creation of three new ones. http://www.growcompost.com/
Housing Trust of Rutland County/Tuckerville Mobile Home Park, Ludlow
Housing Trust of Rutland County owns and manages mobile home parks as part of the affordable housing stock it makes available to residents of Rutland County. They’ll use VCLF financing to cover costs of purchase, site preparation, local permitting, and siting/installation of one VerMod home at Ludlow’s Tuckerville Mobile Home Park. The installation of the new net zero home is expected to bring in new buyers, ultimately revitalizing Tuckerville. http://housingrutland.org/
Otter Creek Child Center, Middlebury
A 5 STARS-rated center serving infants and children 6 weeks through 6 years old, Otter Creek operates out of a circa-1904 former residence, owned by the center. The ‘homey’ feeling is a point of pride for Otter Creek, with nooks and crannies and special spaces enjoyed by children and staff alike. However, the farmhouse has become less energy efficient and more expensive to maintain. Otter Creek came to the Loan Fund to help finance energy efficiency improvements including insulation, ventilation, centralized heating & cooling, and more. The loan preserves 14 jobs and 51 child care slots. http://www.ottercreekcc.org/
Pulmac Systems International, Williston
Pulmac Systems creates and services precision instruments that measure quality of fibers and pulp in paper manufacturing, helping paper mills manufacture higher-quality paper products at lower cost. In preparation for major new product introductions, Pulmac approached VCLF for a line of credit that will enable them to fill anticipated orders. The loan preserves one part-time and six full-time jobs. http://pulmac.com/
Vermont Wood Pellet Company, North Clarendon
Vermont Wood Pellet manufactures high-quality wood pellets sourced from 170,000 acres of managed forestland within 40 miles of its manufacturing plant. Having grown significantly since their 2009 inception, VWP is now gearing up for further expansion. With consistent, increased demand for their product, they’ve contracted out with area processors who, following VWP’s precise manufacturing ‘recipe’ and guidelines, will make pellets sold under the Vermont Wood Pellet brand. VWP will supply these satellite producers with bags. They came to the Loan Fund for financing to address these costs. The loan preserves jobs for 17 full-time and three part-time employees. http://vermontwoodpellet.com/