ST. JOHNSBURY – Friday, Hostess, the maker of ionic foods like Twinkies and Wonder Bread, announced that after 82 years it was closing its plants for good.
The company, headquartered in Irving, Texas, made the move after striking workers ignored warnings to return to work by 5 p.m. Thursday – or else.
“Hostess Brands is unprofitable under its current cost structure, most of which is determined by union wages and pension costs,” states the now defunct company’s website.
“The offer to the BGTGM (Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers) included wage, benefit and work rule concessions, but also give Hostess Brands’ 12 unions a 25 percent ownership stake in the company, representation on its Board of Directors and $100 million in reorganized Hostess Brands’ debt.”
In response, BGTGM posted on its website, “Hostess’s announcement that it is liquidating the company is a deep disappointment for all of our Hostess members. While Hostess management wants to blame our members for the demise of the company, the truth is that had it not been for the valiant efforts of our members over the last eight years, including accepting significant wage and benefit concessions after the first bankruptcy, this company would have gone out of business a long time ago.”
Americans, after hearing the news, rushed to stores to scoop up the company’s remaining bakery goods. Some of the buyers plan to freeze the goodies for future consumption while others saw dollar signs in their eyes and attempted to sell their stash online. A quick search of eBay showed some sellers asking as much as four and five times the price tag.
Cindy Chamberland, manager of J.J. Nissen Wonder Hostess outlet store in St. Johnsbury, said that Friday’s announcement came as a surprise.
“I thought the bakers who were on strike would go back to work,” said Chamberland Saturday afternoon as customers loaded their shopping carts with discounted and two-for-one special deals. The store that sold discounted products by at least 50 percent would close for good Tuesday. The closing will be a big hit for many Northeast Kingdom and Northern New Hampshire residents, Chamberland said. “People rely on our prices to feed their family.”
The store also sold out products that were “out purchases” from other companies.
Gregory Abbott of Newport City made his regular stop at the store Saturday. He said a lot of people relied on the store. Abbott hopes another company will take over the Hostess brand.
Andre Mathieu of Newport City shopped up at the store three times a month. He was not aware the store was closing until the press informed him Saturday. He said the store offered good deals. Mathieu said it isn’t right for the company to close just because of a strike.
“That’s corporate America nowadays though,” said Mathieu. “Either you play by their rules or you don’t have a job.”
The closing affects more than 18,000 employees nationwide. Chamberland was unable to give an exact number of local people who are affected.
“There are too many outlet stores and too many drivers,” she said. “I worked here 32 years and it has been a good company to work for. I am sad to see that we’re all losing our jobs, but I have nothing bad to say about the company.”
Chamberland’s store employed two store workers and two truck drivers.
Canadians and those who live on the northern borders have little to worry about as far as getting their Hostess products. Newswire.ca reported that Weston Bakeries Limited, which has no relationship with Hostess Brands, plans to continue making Wonder Bread. Meanwhile, www.geekosystem.com  reports Saputo produces Hostess products in Canada. It is not clear if that includes Twinkies.
“We own the Hostess brand in Canada,” stated company President Lionel Ettedgui. “There is no impact on us.”
A Twinkie free America might be short lived. Company officials indicated they hope another firm takes over. Until then, Americans will have to find other snacks. Fruit anyone?
For a complete lineup of all Hostess products, go to www.hostessbrands.com/Brands/Hostess.aspx .