By Ashley Luthern
Twinkies, people joked, would last forever, but on Friday, it became increasingly hard to find the cream-filled, sponge-cake treats.
On the city’s West Side, people flocked to the Wonder Hostess Bakery Outlet and stocked up on Zingers, Suzy Q’s and other goodies, but those who arrived after 10:30 a.m. didn’t get any Twinkies.
Word spread quickly that Hostess Brands Inc. filed for bankruptcy Friday — a move to close its business and sell all assets, including its iconic brands and facilities, according to a statement on the company’s website.
“It’s been a rumor for a while, but I was surprised that they actually went through with it,” said Sandie Smotrilla of Youngstown.
Smotrilla used to work at the outlet and continues to shop there. She said the store was “a good neighbor.”
“I remember employees handing out Twinkies at Halloween and my kids taking a dollar bill and crossing the street to get a Twinkie,” she said. “This place has been a landmark. This is sad; it’s another hit for the West Side.”
Smotrilla missed out on the Twinkies but purchased Hostess cupcakes and Suzy Q’s.
“I wanted to stop in before it closed and get my last box of Twinkies,” she said.
The company’s website stated the wind-down means the closure of 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores in the U.S., such as the shop on the West Side.
Gina Grande brought her 3-year-old daughter, Nila, into the Youngstown bakery outlet in search of Twinkies.
“She’s never had one. We usually buy healthy food, but I think now we’re about to make a run on bad food,” Grande said, laughing.
After circling the store, Grande purchased brownies, coffee cakes and cupcakes — but no Twinkies were to be found.
She looked at her daughter and asked: “Do you feel sad that you won’t get to try a Twinkie now?”
The girl nodded, put her head down and wrapped her arms around her mother’s legs.
Hostess officials put the much of the blame on one of the company’s largest unions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which “initiated a nationwide strike that crippled the company’s ability to produce and deliver products at multiple facilities,” according to a news release.
“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike. Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member work force and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders,” said Gregory F. Rayburn, chief executive officer, in a prepared statement.
The Associated Press reported tensions between management and workers have been an ongoing problem, with Hostess coming under fire this year after it was revealed that nearly a dozen executives received pay hikes of up to 80 percent even as the company was struggling last year.
Although some of those executives later agreed to reduced salaries, others — including the former CEO Brian Driscoll — had left the company by the time the pay hikes came to light, the AP reported.
The company said online that it will sell its popular brands, including Hostess, Drakes and Dolly Madison, which make cake products such as Twinkies, CupCakes, Ding Dongs, Ho Ho’s, Sno Balls and Donettes. Bread brands to be sold include Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Merita, Home Pride, Butternut, and Beefsteak, among others.