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April Cornell's comeback after bankruptcy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

April Cornell's comeback after bankruptcy

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

In the vibrant city of Burlington there's a place that stands out, one overflowing with color, pattern and life.

"It really comes from an artist's heart, that is very important," April Cornell said.

For almost 40 years, April Cornell has outfitted everything from adults to kids to tables and beds.

"The bread crumbs were there and I followed them. I don't know how it happened," Cornell said.

Cornell started the business that shares her name in her early 20s, after traveling to countries like Afghanistan and India. She fell in love with the rich textiles and knew she discovered a niche for a new business.

"There was appetite for that colorful product in the North American market," she said.

Business hasn't always been vibrant for April Cornell. In 2006 the company went bankrupt, but instead of closing its doors, Cornell restructured the business.

Reporter Gina Bullard: What was that time like?

April Cornell: It was horrible. It was a bad time.

The economy was tanking; people were spending less. Her business was losing money. Cornell declared bankruptcy. At the same time, she was going through a divorce. Her life and business were changing in ways she never imagined.

Gina Bullard: What happened?

April Cornell: In some ways, it's still a mystery what happened. We had a lot of stores, expensive leases, wholesale showrooms. Sales went down, costs were high.

To keep the company alive, she made dramatic business decisions, becoming leaner and consolidating. She once had 107 retail stores raking in around $70 million a year. Now, she has five stores taking in $10 million annually.

"I think I learned to trust myself and be overly cautious with taking advice from others," Cornell said.

All of her Vermont operations are now in a Burlington waterfront building, from the retail flagship store to design and shipping and receiving. Manufacturing still remains in India, where she employs 250 people. Cornell has emerged with a new plan and a spirit as hopeful as her patterns.

"Basically we're focused on our online business and our wholesale business," she said.

And as for Cornell's love life, that's been reinvigorated, as well. She recently got married to the company's chief operating officer.

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