Baker buys Ms. Desserts' parent

Big Woodlawn plant, other units gained at bankruptcy auction

February 06, 2002|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore business owner who makes doughnuts for thousands of 7-Eleven stores around the country has purchased the bankrupt owner of Ms. Desserts, the Woodlawn maker of cakes and pies for restaurants and hotels.

Charles Burman, president of Bakery Express Mid-Atlantic, formed Bakery Express Ms. Desserts LLC to buy the assets of Ms. Desserts' parent for $955,000 in a bankruptcy auction Jan. 16. The sale became final Friday.

The sale included the accounts, trade names, inventory and equipment of the parent corporation, Bakery Resources Group LLC, which runs a 56,000-square-foot plant in Woodlawn that employs 100 full- and part-time workers.

The plant produces baked goods for Ms. Desserts and two other brands: Take the Cake, which operates as a mail-order business for Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, and Arctic Frozen Dough, which sells dough to the Great Cookie mall stores.

Burman said he plans to stabilize and build upon the Ms. Desserts business, which sells products nationally to restaurants such as TGI Friday, Ruby Tuesday and Olive Garden as well as to hotel chains and food distributors.

"Ms. Desserts has had a national reputation for a long time, and is an asset to the local area," Burman said. "There was a high risk of having the company dismantled and shipped off somewhere."

Bakery Resources' annual sales peaked at $13 million in 1999 but fell to less than $7 million last year as customers curtailed orders from the bankrupt company, Burman said.

The company had been hurt by the January 2000 bankruptcy of one of its major distributors, AmeriServe Food Distribution Inc., of Dallas, said Robert J. Barry Jr., Bakery Resources' chief executive, who will stay on as president of the new Bakery Express Ms. Desserts.

Protected by bankruptcy, AmeriServe never paid Ms. Desserts $350,000 it owed. On top of that, the bankruptcy court ordered Ms. Desserts to return more than $930,000 AmeriServe had paid it.

"There was no question we were caught up in a trickle-down of a large bankruptcy," Barry said. Bakery Resources filed for Chapter 11 protection in May.

Burman said he expects to re-establish lost business within 18 months, and bring annual sales back to $13 million. He expects double-digit growth for the next five years, with sales growing to as much as $30 million annually.

"The first order of business is to firm up and re-establish relationships with the existing restaurants," then aggressively market to additional restaurant chains, Burman said.

The new owner of Ms. Desserts has been in the bakery business for more than three decades.

In 1970, 7-Eleven started offering self-serve coffee. Burman pitched the idea of selling fresh baked goods as well, winning a contract to supply doughnuts and other baked goods to six 7-Eleven stores.

His company, Bakery Express Mid-Atlantic, now occupies a 33,000-square-foot plant in Southwest Baltimore and supplies fresh-baked goods seven days a week to more than 1,000 7-Eleven stores from northern New Jersey to central Virginia.

Burman has expanded around the country with additional, independent companies since 1996, when he started Bakery Express Central Florida, which serves 540 stores in the Orlando area.

In 2000, he started Bakery Express Central Texas to supply 305 stores in Texas. And in May, Burman plans to start Bakery Express of Southern California to serve another 675 7-Eleven stores.

Ms. Desserts started in 1978, when founder Deane Hochman started baking cakes out of her kitchen. During the 1980s, Ms. Desserts sold baked goods from three local retail stores, which were later closed.

The company still operates two stores, one next to the Woodlawn plant and another in Timonium.

A Canadian corporation bought the company in 1989 and moved it to Woodlawn. It was sold in 1997 to a group of investors who formed Bakery Resources Group.

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