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Bristol writes off loan to cookie maker Liz Lovely

BRISTOL — More than $75,000 officially went up in smoke last week when the Bristol selectboard voted to write off a debt the town can no longer collect.
“Basically this is just cleaning up the record for the bank,” said selectboard chair Peter Coffey at last week’s board meeting.
In December 2016 Waitsfield cookie maker Liz Lovely Inc. borrowed $75,000 from the Bristol Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to purchase materials and equipment. Two years — and very few payments — later, the company had racked up $6,246 in unpaid interest and $2,429 in late charges.
The loss will in no way affect Bristol’s taxpayers, however.
The RLF was established with grant money in the 1980s to fund downtown storefront improvements and low-income housing renovations. The fund has expanded its scope over the years and grown in size with money repaid from the original and current loans.
At the end of 2018, more than a dozen borrowers — most in good standing — owed Bristol’s RLF a total of $534,784. The Liz Lovely write-off accounts for 14 percent of that.
Though it’s the largest write-off sustained by the RLF in recent memory, “the fund is in good shape,” said Bristol Town Treasurer Jen Myers, who has worked for the town for eight years.
“But it does mean that we can’t loan that money to somebody else who could use it,” she said.
Liz Lovely founders Liz Scott and Dan Holz moved their fledgling company from Philadelphia to Waitsfield in 2004, after Holz had read a book about the iconic Vermont ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s.
Liz Lovely produced a popular line of certified gluten-free and vegan cookies with the tag line “Cleanest. Ingredients. Ever.”
According to an August 2018 story in the Burlington Free Press, the company grew quickly and survived a number of setbacks caused by the Great Recession and Tropical Storm Irene.
In 2012 Scott and Holz even appeared on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank,” though the couple failed to make an investment deal.
Ultimately, according to the Free Press, the couple’s bitter divorce in 2014 did the company in. After Holz left Liz Lovely, Scott took over as company CEO but she couldn’t make it work.
When she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Indiana last April, Scott owed more than $600,000 to creditors, and Bristol was only in the middle of the pack in terms of outstanding debt. The creditors included:
•  $225,000 to the Vermont Flexible Capital Fund, which focuses on helping rural companies grow.
•  $100,000 to Northfield Savings Bank.
•  $75,000 to the town of Bristol.
•  $50,000 to Waitsfield entrepreneur Robin Morris.
•  $48,000 to Bristol Bakery (now Bristol Cliffs Cafe), which had been contracted to bake for the company.
Bristol selectboard member Michelle Perlee researched the matter on behalf of the town and concluded that there was nothing the RLF could do to recoup its losses.
Asked about it at last week’s selectboard meeting she shook her head with resignation.
“Yeah … we’re cooked,” she said.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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