The end of the food company that makes Wonder Bread, Hostess Twinkies and CupCakes, Ho Hos and fried pies means something important to Carol Moody of Akron.
“Childhood is gone,” the 66-year-old Akron woman said Friday after buying a shopping cart full of bread and goodies from the Wonder Hostess Bakery Outlet store on Canton Road in Ellet.
“These were the things your parents brought home,” she said. “It was a big deal for you.”
On the day when 82-year-old Hostess Brands Inc. shut down following a nationwide strike by bakery workers, bread and sweets were being grabbed by a long line of customers from the shelves throughout the day.
Twinkies had been missing from the shelves since Hostess Brands workers went on strike last week.
Barbara Mayes, 65, of Springfield Township, bought bread, selling for 99 cents a loaf, for Thanksgiving stuffing.
“My heart goes out to all of them,” she said of her concern for the workers at Hostess facilities.
Another shopper, Dave Young, 75, a retired teacher and baseball and basketball coach at Tallmadge High School, bought several boxes of Hostess CupCakes to put in his freezer.
“I am just sad,” he said of the situation. “I’ve always loved their products.”
The only worker at the store said she was not authorized to speak to the media.
Regular customer Anita Leibert, 49, bought some bread. “I hate to see them go,” she said.
What would she think of a world without Twinkies? “Maybe I’ll lose a few pounds,” she said.
Another shopper, who would not give her name, said she used to buy baked goods at the outlet store near the University of Akron.
The Hostess Brands Wonder Bread bakery on Forge Street closed in 2010, as well as the outlet store on Mill Street. Officials from Hostess Brands could not be reached for comment.
On its website, the company said, “We are sorry to announce that Hostess Brands Inc. has been forced by a Bakers Union strike to shut down all operations and sell all company assets. For more information, go to www.hostessbrands.info. Thank you for all of your loyalty and support over the years.”
In a news release, the company said it has about 21,000 employees and operates 39 bakeries, 6,000 delivery routes, 600 distribution centers and 700 bakery outlet stores. In addition, the company delivers to more than 50,000 customers a day.
At Dave’s Market at 871 E. Exchange St. in Akron, bread route salesman Jim Nuznoff was restocking Wonder, Home Pride Buttertop Wheat and Beefsteak rye breads as part of his normal routine.
Deliverer isn’t surprised
Friday, however, was anything but normal for the 59-year-old Tallmadge resident. Nuznoff spent the day saying goodbye to the customers he has served for the past 15 years working for Hostess.
“I’m on vacation next week. I don’t expect to have a job by the time I come back,” he said.
Nuznoff said he wasn’t completely surprised. “We’ve been bankrupt twice,” he said, referring to Hostess’ former corporate name of Interstate Brands.
Nuznoff said he delivers to Dave’s five days a week on his bread route, which includes seven large grocery stores and seven smaller markets.
He agreed that it would seem strange not to see Hostess items like Wonder Bread and Twinkies on store shelves. “You expect it to be there whether you buy it or not,” he said.
However, he said it is likely that someone would buy the brands and continue to produce the iconic breads and snack cakes.
Nuznoff works out of the Hostess headquarters at 1500 Firestone Parkway. A man answering the phone at the headquarters, who refused to identify himself because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, said about 20 employees work out of the Akron location, most of whom are delivery route drivers and members of the Teamsters.
Nuznoff, a Teamster, said his union recently agreed to take contract concessions, including an 8 percent pay cut, and assume a larger portion of their health-care costs. The pay cut amounted to $4,000 for Nuznoff, he said.
“They gave the bakers an ultimatum,” he said. “We took the cuts.”
Bakers refused to accept the cuts and went on strike, prompting the company’s move to dissolve.
Nuznoff said he has an interview next week for a job as a temporary delivery route driver at FedEx over the holidays. After that, he wasn’t sure about his future.
For at least 20 years, Margaret Badgett, 68, of Lakemore, had been a regular shopper at the outlet store in Ellet.
On Friday, she bought some bread and CupCakes. “I feel bad,” she said.
She, too, was asked to imagine America without Twinkies. “I don’t know how that is going to work,” she said.
Shopper Carol Moody said she and her husband, Bill, decided to stock up after hearing the news Friday morning about the shutdown of the company.
They bought a lot of sweets to freeze for eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“It does feel like the end of childhood,” she said, “It’s like, now what? You can’t pass it on to your grandkids. It is not here anymore.”
Jerry Finnell, 79, of Akron, was a driver and salesman for the company. “Those 29 years I had were great years,” Finnell said. “I worked my butt off. We had a great product and I was proud to be associated with it.”
Shutting down the company, he said, “will be a hell of a loss to the public.”