How Vulture Capitalism Eats People with Disabilities (and those without)
When photographer Amy Berg learned she was going blind, she thought it might be time for a change of career and began baking cookies for gourmet shops around town. Over time, Amy's Cookies grew into a business with over half-a-million dollars in sales that employs seven people. But now, just as she was hoping to sell the business and retire, she's suffered a major setback.
"I started Amy’s Cookies so I could be independent. And it worked for 28 years," Berg told Ability Fierce in an interview at her bakery in Brooklyn's Sunset Park."But now I’m having to close my business because Dean & Deluca owes me a tremendous amount of money - $71,000 and they’re not paying."
Berg's problems started when Dean & Deluca, a traditional New York gourmet shop was purchased by Thai real estate mogul Sorapoj Techakraisri, whose firm Pace Development Corp. acquired the chain in 2014 for $140 million with plans to turn the brand global.
But Berg says those global ambitions have led the new owner to neglect the store's flagship location in Soho, which became a culinary landmark shortly after opening in 1977.
"I’m mean it’s kind of ironic, I’m being forced to close by the company that put me on the map," Berg said.
Dean & Deluca was one of Berg's first accounts and certainly her biggest. She the business relationship started with a single cookie and quickly grew to orders by the pound.
Berg says the old owners used to taste everything and maintain close relationships with their suppliers but that ended after the company was acquired by Techakraisri. She reached out to Giorgio DeLuca for help after reading an article saying he had kept a stake in the company, but it turns out that information was incorrect.
"He had sold off his shares years ago, he didn’t have a stake in it. And he wanted to know how that information got into that article because he wasn’t very happy about it, because he didn’t want to be associated with these people and how they’re kind of ruining his baby. And then he advised me to get a lawyer," Berg said.
So she's planning to sue but she's also wondering if Techakraisi hasn't just taken a page from the current U.S. president's playbook and decided he can get away with not paying suppliers.
"I call him the Donald Trump of Thailand," Berg said.
Berg isn’t the only supplier who’s been stiffed, but she says her disability will make it that much harder to find buyers who can take the place of her main customer.
"I’d have to hire somebody to go out and get more accounts, that’d be fine if I had the money in my account from Dean & Deluca to hold me over until I was able to do that," she said.