Running out of dough
November 21, 2012
Hostess closure affects Teton Valley
Broulim’s Brad Bischoff is not worried about having enough bread, but he will replace nearly half his selection as Hostess closes. Photo by Hope Strong
As of Tuesday, the Honorable Robert D. Drain was the bankruptcy judge encouraging mediation between Hostess and the worker’s union that was reportedly forcing the 82-year-old company out of business, but it was tough to find a Twinkie or Ding Dong in Teton Valley as of last Saturday.
Wonder Bread and other popular Hostess brands were still stocked in the bread aisle in Broulim’s, Teton Valley’s largest grocer, but the shelves carrying iconic confections were left bare last week as sentimental shoppers scooped up the last remaining cakes.
“I’ve been watching this eight years or better,” Broulim’s manager Brad Bischoff said of Hostess’ struggles. “It’s been a long time coming.”
By Monday morning, Bischoff had brought in Entenmann’s and Franz doughnuts to fill the empty Hostess racks. Short of successful mediation between Hostess and the labor union, the veteran grocery store manager anticipates that Wonder Bread, Nature’s Pride, Home Pride, Eddy’s and Grandma Emilie’s products will not be restocked.
“We have a lot of other breads, so there should not be a shortage,” Bischoff said.
While Teton Valley’s other grocery stores, Victor Valley Market and Barrels and Bins, do carry local 460 bread and other popular bakery products, neither was affected by the news of Hostess’ soggy situation.
On the contrary, if Hostess has, in fact, gotten burned by the labor union, there is a chance that many local gas stations will need to find new purveyors of snack cakes as well as bread products. On Tuesday in Driggs, the Basin Travel Stop had serious vacancies in the Hostess shelves with only chocolate and powdered doughnuts left.
“We sold the last two Twinkies Saturday, and the cupcakes went next,” said Carla Rorabaugh, a clerk at the BTS. “Then went the raspberry Zingers and the Ding Dongs. I hear Wayne is talking with ”Little Debbie.”
As the owner of the Phillips 66 and the Exxon stations in Driggs, Wayne Hartshorn expected Little Debbie to restock his shelves as early as Wednesday, but he was not sure where his bread products would come from in the future.
“Everybody is in a scramble,” Hartshorn said. “There has been a big push for buns, but we’re just going to have to see what happens. The Little Debbie guys didn’t know how they were going to deal with the increase in demand, and the bread companies don’t have the resources to focus on little stores like mine just yet. They’re dealing with the grocery stores right now. It may take a little bit, but I’m pretty well stocked right now.”
As the owner of one local bakery that may be appealing to a different demographic than Hostess, Martha Pendl was nostalgic about the potential elimination of snack cakes with an incredible shelf life.
“I wasn’t much into Twinkies, but walking down to the Circle K for some Ding Dongs was a Saturday tradition growing up,” Pendl said. “I’m sad my children won’t be able to share in that experience.”
With an estimated 18,000 jobs at stake if Hostess folds, Teton Valley is likely to see an impact beyond bread and cakes. One local woman’s father had more than 20 years with Hostess, and will relocate to Teton Valley if forced to take early retirement.
“My father is a sales supervisor in Flagstaff, Ariz. with only three years before he retired,” said Julie Hines. “He would be disappointed to have to take early retirement, but an even greater disappointment would be for him to see the nine younger guys that work under him lose their jobs.”
Teton Valley may be isolated from places where Hostess plants operated, but the effects from a closure of the corporate bakery will touch even the most remote parts of America.