Hostess closing announcement leads to run on Twinkies, other goodies

November 16, 2012
Roxanne Fletcher of Eighty Four leaves the Hostess store on Jefferson Avenue outside Washington with her purchases Friday morning. - Robin Richards / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

When it comes to snack appeal, Angie Keener said, Hostess has the mostest.

That’s why she was distressed Friday morning after Hostess Brands Inc. announced it was going out of business, saying striking workers nationwide had severely limited the company’s ability to produce snacks at about a dozen plants.

The closure, according to the Associated Press, would result in a loss of about 18,500 jobs.

Hostess, a privately held company based in Irving, Texas, said its stores would remain open until all products are sold – which, at many sites, will be only a few days.

Keener and her fiance, Jack Haberthier, were at the Hostess store on Jefferson Avenue in Canton Township, just outside Washington, Friday. They were among a stream of custumers who entered the tidy mini-grocery, which had pre-existing signs outside proclaiming “New Lower Prices” and “Free Cake With a $10.00 Purchase.”

Inside, the goodies and healthier items were diminishing rapidly – or gone. Four long shelves recently stacked with 99-cent loaves of white bread were empty.

The Claysville couple were shopping Friday morning for what remained of the sweet treats that usually are available. The signature Twinkies had disappeared, only three packets of Ho Ho’s were left, and the Zingers, Donettes and brownies were dwindling.

“This is kind of sad because I grew up with Hostess,” said Keener, who works in the Washington County Courthouse.

She said this was only the second time she had stopped at this store, and that she mostly purchases Hostess products – especially Twinkies – at a Giant Eagle store.

“They don’t have Twinkies, so we got other things,” Keener said.

She and three other customers interviewed at mid-morning were aware of Hostess’ decision. Amy, the employee on duty who would not give her last name, said she had “not gotten official word. I’m a little upset how I found out, through the news and the Internet.”

Surprised by the decision?

“No,” she said, unflinchingly.

Her store is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Amy is the only employee there on six of those days. “This is going to hurt a lot of people,” she said, noting the store is popular.

“It’s a shame that certain employees can determine the fate of 18,000 (workers),” she added.

Last week, thousands of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike, two months after rejecting a contract offer reducing pay and benefits. The union represents about 30 percent of Hostess’ employees.

According to AP, Hostess said it had warned striking employees it would file a motion with U.S. Bankruptcy Court Friday, seeking permission to shut down and sell its brands if plants hadn’t resumed normal operations by Thursday evening.

Hostess Brands Chief Executive Officer Gregory Rayburn said he was hopeful that the company will find buyers for its roster of about 30 brands, for which it books about $2.5 billion.

The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, the second time it went to bankruptcy court in less than a decade.

Carl Cigana, of the Muse section of Cecil Township, was surprised and downcast by what had transpired. “A lot of people are going to be losing their jobs.”

He said he shops at the Jefferson Avenue outlet about once a month and “got spoiled here. I love the snacks and cakes ... my wife and I. I guess I’ll have to go to Walmart.”

Eighty Four resident Roxanne Fletcher was there “because my husband wanted Hostess Twinkies.” Instead, she purchased “doughnuts, snack cakes and Ding Dongs. But they were out of toilet paper.”

The dearth of Twinkies was the most disturbing occurrence to shoppers Friday. There was a report on Facebook that someone purchased the final 35 boxes from the Jefferson Avenue store about 10 a.m.

Keener expected that sugary treat to be rare, or nonexistent, while en route to the store.

“I know that on Facebook, everyone was trying to get Twinkies,” she said. “On eBay, they’re asking $10 a box.

“Everybody loves Twinkies, and they never go bad.”

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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