Clovis News

Word on the Street: Taking a toffee break

Sheryl Bavoso of Clovis likes to say she's turning lemons into toffee.

She's referring to making the best of her situation by creating and selling her toffee -- chocolate flavored, not lemon -- after being laid off from a job she loved.

She sells the toffee at Cinnamonster, the cinnamon roll store at Willow and Nees avenues.

Bavoso worked for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for more than three years, managing cycling and triathlon teams for the Team in Training fundraisers. She said the job was her passion, but she was laid off in March.

She had made her toffee for years, giving it away and selling it on the holidays.

Bavoso was a longtime customer of Cinnamonster, and an offhand comment to owner Kelly Yost led to the arrangement.

By law, Bavoso is required to use a kitchen that meets certain standards if she is going to sell commercially. Yost agreed to let her use the kitchen in the afternoons, when he is done baking cinnamon rolls.

It's too soon to tell if the toffee will replace her income at her former job, she said. She recently began selling the toffee at a spa called Indulge near West and Herndon avenues and is seeking more locations.

The toffee is named Tutie's Fabulous English Toffee after Bavoso's nickname. It costs $6 for a six-ounce package or $15 for a one-pound package.

Seeking gas cash

Financial troubles may endanger plans in the works in Hanford, Kerman and Riverdale to convert dairy wastes into purified natural gas.

Microgy Inc. has all the permits it needs to build anaerobic digesters and hopes to begin construction this fall on its projects in Riverdale and Hanford. The digester plants employ bacteria and enzymes to convert manure and other dairy wastes into methane, and then process the gas to natural-gas standards.

The company has an agreement to sell its gas to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

But Microgy's parent company, New York-based Environmental Power Corp., said it must find new sources of cash and investments if it is to stay in business. In a financial statement and conference call Friday, the company reported a net loss of $3.3 million in 2008.

Environmental Power officials said work on the Hanford and Riverdale plants will depend on the release of $62.4 million in bond funding. That money, in turn, is contingent on Environmental Power's financial situation, as well as the performance of another Microgy plant operating at a dairy in Texas.

The Riverdale digester would serve several dairies and have the potential to generate 621 billion British Thermal Units of gas per year. Another digester serving a cluster of dairies in the Hanford area could produce as much as 732 billion BTUs per year.

Together, the Riverdale and Hanford plants, as well as a third digester planned for the Bar 20 dairy near Kerman, could generate enough gas to meet the needs of 51,000 homes, according to Microgy.

But the Kerman plant will remain on the drawing board, said Michael Thomas, Environmental Power's senior vice president and chief financial officer, until the economy and the company's financial situation improve.

The Kerman digester has already been approved to seek up to $26.1 million in tax-exempt bond financing. "We will only seek to pursue financing when market conditions improve and other financing initiatives are developed," Thomas said Friday.

Going solo

After 18 years in environmental research, Tshaka Toure decided to branch out on his own.

Toure founded Toure Associates in Fresno in February.

The company is a consulting business that helps developers get permits and comply with the California Environmental Quality Act before building.

Work was slowing down at his previous firm and Toure found he was bringing in many of his own clients.

"The writing was on the wall," he said of his uncertain future. "If it wasn't for the economic downturn, I never would have tried to branch out on my own. I've been wanting to do this for quite some time."

Toure is in marketing mode now and hopes business picks up as the economy recovers.