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"He's going after my business. He's trying to steal everything," she said. "He needs to get a life."
Despite her anger, she finished the drink on an optimistic note. She'd recently secured an investor in New York City — a guy who ate three Playfood grilled cheese sandwiches a day and wanted to give her a significant financial boost.
"This year, Playfood is really going to happen," she said. "We just have to go through this and get rid of the leeches." In January 30, 2007, Van Pelt and Rozzo stood awkwardly in the hallway of the Platte County Courthouse, waiting for a young lawyer they'd hired less than 48 hours earlier. Van Pelt had been served with a lawsuit the preceding Saturday; Smith wanted to shut her down until he could regain some control of Playfood.
Hands shoved into the pockets of her tweed winter coat, Van Pelt watched with a mix of anger and amusement as the opposing party filed through the heavy wooden doors of Division I.
Her mother and Honeycutt swept past with attorney Whinery, her old prom date. Behind them, attorney Patrick Miller marched in with Smith, who, despite his 6-foot frame and dark suit, still came off like a wholesome sitcom kid.
Waiting for Judge Abe Shafer, the small courtroom was taut with silence. Van Pelt stared straight ahead, her hands folded on the table. Smith swiveled slightly in his chair, flashing bashful smiles at Whinery and Duncan.
Miller argued that Van Pelt had created a rogue company, swindling Smith out of his investment of more than $100,000 by claiming that he had no control over the Parkville operation or access to future profits now that bottles were being shipped out to stores.
Miller called Honeycutt and Duncan to the stand. Their testimony suggested that the company was in deep financial trouble. Playfood was $47,000 in debt, Honeycutt said, and had $80 in the bank. Miller argued that if Van Pelt remained in control, Smith's investment would be squandered. The judge granted Smith's injunction, giving the former business partner access to the cave.
A day after the hearing, Van Pelt was already locked out. Weeks passed as both sides took depositions. In March, Van Pelt filed a counterclaim alleging that Smith had "abandoned Playfood during a crucial several month period," that he was still using the orange truck and Playfood recipes to make money in California and that she'd never seen a cent of that unreported cash. Not to mention, she emphasized, the cheese recipe was her intellectual property.
Smith has offered her a deal that would free her of management duties and pay her royalties for Playfood products.
"All the years I've known Heidi, she wanted to be able to live a more carefree life and live off her talent," he tells the Pitch. "That's what I'm offering her."
Van Pelt doesn't see it that way.
She says that ever since she was a kid, she's had a desire to feed the world.
Maybe it's because her astrological sign is Cancer. Maybe it's because she's trying to make up for the nurturing that she says she never got growing up. Maybe it's because her mom burned everything to an inedible crisp when she was a kid. She's not sure. But she remembers that, even as an 8-year-old, she worried that Siberians couldn't produce food in such frigid conditions, and she resolved to build greenhouses for them when she grew up.