Joey Siubis went to the Hostess Bakery Outlet in Egg Harbor Township on a mission Friday morning: to score Twinkies.
He quickly grabbed several boxes of the creme-infused yellow spongecake, throwing them into his shopping basket just hours after Hostess Brands Inc. announced it would shutter its business, perhaps ending the life of the famously long-lived snacks.
Siubis, 35, of Egg Harbor City, said he had difficulties finding Twinkies in South Jersey, where Tastykakes dominate. So when Siubis heard Hostess was shutting down, he drove to the outlet on Tilton Road before they vanished for good.
“I’m a chef, so I can eat anything I want, but once in a while,” he said, and shrugged at the full basket.
Hostess is closing down after struggling with rising labor costs and the shifting tastes of Americans, who have shunned processed foods while at the same time been tempted by an array of new snacks in grocery stores. The company also makes Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and the Drake’s line of baked goods, including some brands that date to 1888.
The announcement inspired a flood of semi-serious remembrances online. The satirical publication The Onion wrote the headline “Laid-Off Hostess Employee Forced To Look For Creme-Injecting Job Elsewhere,” while Gov. Chris Christie jokingly refused to address the topic at a news conference in Newark.
“I know it! You people are the worst!” said Christie, who has publicly acknowledged struggling with his weight. “This is a setup! I am not answering questions on Twinkies, no, no, no, no, no, no. It’s bad that I even said the word ‘Twinkie’ from behind this microphone.”
The company, based in Irving, Texas, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, the second time in three years. It filed a motion Friday to wind down its business in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York following a protracted battle with unions and growing competition from a host of national and international bakeries.
Thousands of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union workers went on strike last week after rejecting a contract that slashed wages and benefits. The union represented about a third of Hostess employees, but the company has said its unionized work force shackled it with high pension, wage and medical costs.
The company reached a contract agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, its largest union, which urged the bakery union to hold a secret ballot on ending the strike.
About 18,500 people stand to lose their jobs as the company closes its 36 bakeries, 565 distribution centers and 570 bakery outlet stores. The company said employees at its factories were sent home and operations suspended Friday. The company’s bakery outlets will stay open as they sell the remainder of their products.
That spells a hardship for Dawn Dochney, 53, who stretches the money she receives for being partially disabled with multiple sclerosis at the local outlet.
“I’m going to be back for bread, to load up,” the Egg Harbor Township resident said Friday morning.
Hostess CEO Greg Rayburn said in an interview with The Associated Press that no imminent buyer would save the company. But he indicated, without giving details, that there had been some interest in some of the company’s 30 brands.
Despite closing the week before Thanksgiving, Rayburn said the bankruptcy meant there would be “severe limits” on the assistance it could offer workers. A bankrupty judge will rule on the liquidation filing Monday, and Rayburn told the AP that he was confident he would approve the motion.
But the move to liquidate was unwelcome to shoppers at the bakery outlet.
Throughout the day, company employees told shoppers — many of whom they knew from repeated visits — that the store would be closing, though they did not know when.
Sylvester Raeford, 63, of Galloway Township, bought cinnamon graham crackers and butter cookies Friday. He said he typically bought wheat bread or snacks that he could eat as a diabetic.
Ruth Thomas, 56, of Pleasantville, bought six 24-packs of dinner rolls for $6, filling two plastic bags with the soft, slider-sized bread.
Thomas said she planned to serve them at Thanksgiving, when she would be joined by 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren at the house.
“Oh, I don’t want you to close,” she told store manager Georgeanne Julia, 60, of Winslow Township, Camden County, as she paid. “You saved my family.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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