This company went from ‘Shark Tank’ to bankruptcy
Vermont entrepreneur leaves others holding bag
The tie-dye suit definitely gets your attention.
David Glickman donned the get-up for his appearance May 3, 2013, on Season 4 of ABC’s “Shark Tank.” The suit, Glickman told the investors, was a symbol of freedom, a talisman signifying his escape from the “rat race” of New York City to bucolic Vermont, where he was pursuing entrepreneurial success.
That dream ended last November, when Glickman and his wife filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. They closed the business he’d pitched to the investor sharks – Vermont Butcher Block & Board Company – and left behind nearly $800,000 in unpaid debts.
Glickman could not be reached for comment on what happened to his once-promising business, but Dorothy Walcoff, 94, offered her insight. Walcoff owns the buildingwhere Glickman had a storefront from 2011 to 2015.
Glickman was a “wheeler-dealer,” Walcoff said.
“He never paid his rent on time, then he would skip payments,” she said. “He always had a good excuse.”
For the first year, Vermont Butcher Block was doing well, going “cracker jacks,” Walcoff said, and Glickman paid on time. But business dwindled, she said, and the timely payments stopped.
Walcoff said she was “a little too good-natured” about letting Glickman slide on his rent. When he asked to break his lease a year early, Walcoff agreed, getting him to sign a promissory note for the roughly $10,000 he owed.
A year later, Glickman hadn’t paid a cent, according to Walcoff’s daughter, Debbie Blake. Walcoff ’s attorney wrote a letter to Glickman, saying he needed to pay now. Glickman began making payments but still owed Walcoff about $2,100 when he filed for bankruptcy.
“You don’t want to do business with him,” Walcoff concluded.
That was the same decision the sharks made five years ago. None took Glickman up on his offer of a 25 percent equity stake in his company in exchange for a $400,000 investment.
Begging the sharks
Kevin O’Leary seemed particularly unimpressed with Glickman’s tie-dye suit, saying, “I don’t care if you wear goatskin. Do you make any money?”
Glickman said he’d sold nearly $3 million in product since founding the company in 2004. He claimed he’d approach a million dollars in sales in 2013 and make about $200,000 in profit.
That prompted celebrity investor Lori Greiner to ask, then why are you here? Glickman said he needed money and help to grow the business.
As shark after shark dropped out, Glickman sweetened the pot, telling Mark Cuban he could have 40 percent of the company for $400,000. When Cuban declined, Glickman turned to Robert Herjavec, offering him 45 percent. At this point, Cuban told Glickman he wasn’t helping himself by begging, and the episode ended without a deal.
Flexible Capital Fund steps in
But Glickman’s appearance on “Shark Tank” wasn’t entirely in vain.
Vermont Butcher Block was the second Vermont company to make its way onto the reality show. The first was cookie-maker Liz Lovely Inc., which also failed to attract an investor and also has since gone out of business.
For Liz Lovely, the Vermont Flexible Capital Fund stepped in with the financing the celebrity sharks declined to provide. Glickman noticed and gave Flex Fund President Janice St. Onge a call.
The Flex Fund invested $250,000 in Vermont Butcher Block, allowing Glickman to move out of his garage and into a commercial space in Williston.
“We are like the remora fish on a shark,” St. Onge joked to the Free Press in 2013 about “Shark Tank.” “What for them wasn’t a good deal is a great deal for us.” Remoras suction themselves to large marine predators, living off the scraps of prey.
The Flexible Capital Fund is still owed more than $205,000.
“He was a very good salesman and not as good a businessman,” said Kevin Staudt of Vermont Commercial Warehouse, Glickman’s landlord in Williston who was left holding the bag for nearly $84,000 in unpaid lease payments.
“I would tell you that David talked a very good line, and all of his people he worked with and creditors thought he was doing well long after he wasn’t,” Staudt said. “He didn’t seem interested in any help or advice, and he went through a lot of money.”
While he took pride in his cutting boards and kitchen utensils, Glickman also readily admitted his skills as a woodworker were thin to nonexistent and said he latched onto cutting boards because they were easy to make.
“I can’t make furniture; I can’t make a dresser; I have no interest,” Glickman said. “I don’t have the patience. I need instant gratification.”
An epitaph, perhaps, for Vermont Butcher Block & Board Company.
Randy Ouellette clears sawdust away as an automated router shapes blocks of wood at Vermont Butcher Block & Board Company in Williston, Vt., in July 2017.
David Glickman, owner of Vermont Butcher Block & Board Company, says he “just couldn’t handle it all.”