Saturday November 17, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Say goodbye to Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and Wonder Bread -- at least for now.

Hostess Brands Inc., which makes all of those iconic products, announced on Friday that it's planning to cease operations and sell its assets because of a nationwide bakers union strike that it claims crippled the company's ability to produce and deliver products to multiple sites.

The Texas-based company, founded in 1930, but with a roster of brands that dates back as far as 1888, filed a motion to liquidate on Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Hostess plans to lay off most of its 18,500 workers nationwide, and focus on selling its brands to the highest bidders, which means it's possible that Twinkies will be back on shelves again at some point.

Hostess employs drivers, mechanics, and thrift store employees, among others. It was unclear on Friday how the layoffs would affect Berkshire County's workforce. The county's lone Hostess outlet on Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield, closed around two years ago.

The nearest Hostess outlets to the Berkshires are currently located in Springfield; Brattleboro, Vt.; and Watervliet, N.Y., according to the company's website.

But losing the Hostess brands, even temporarily, is another story.

Joanne Langton, the owner of Joanne's Luncheonette on Elm Street, referred to the news as "very stressful" because she has used Wonder Bread ever since opening 38 years ago.

"That was my bread," Langton said. "I always used it.


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I don't know what I'm going to do. I hope someone picks it up."

Pete Powers of Pittsfield said he hasn't eaten Twinkies in many years, but wondered how the loss of the popular snacks would affect the younger members of his family.

"I have two little granddaughters," said Powers, after shopping at the Price Chopper Supermarket in Lenox. "I'm wondering if they've ever experienced them."

Kathy Hazelett of Pittsfield referred to Twinkies as "part of our heritage."

"Everybody loves Twinkies," Hazelett said. "Hostess Sno Balls were my favorite. I guess I'm going to have to stock up on them before they go off the shelves."

"I think it's a shame," said Dick Radcliffe of Castleton, N.Y., after shopping at the Big Y on West Street. "Lots of guys used to put them in their lunch [boxes] when I worked."

Hostess had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, which was the company's second trip through bankruptcy court in less than three years. Unlike many of its competitors, Hostess was also dealing with high pension, wage and medical costs that were related to its unionized workforce.

Donna Fredsall of Sandis field, who owned a small business with her husband that recently closed after 24 years, said she felt sorry for the workers who would be losing their jobs.

"It's a total shame," she said. "I feel so sorry for all the people who are losing everything."

Twelve-year-old Michael Gomez of Charlestown, R.I., said he prefers Hostess doughnuts to Twinkies, but has several friends who eat the popular cream-filled treat.

"I think people will get a lot thinner," he said.

Bryce Remillard of Pitts field, who is also 12, was surprised when she heard Twink ies may not be on store shelves anymore.

"They're good," Remillard said. "It's sad."

Material from The Associated Press was also used in this report.

History of the Twinkie

Date created: 1930

Number produced each year: 500 million

Calories per cake: 150

Other products from Hostess: Wonder Bread, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos

Twinkie trivia: The so-called "Twinkie defense" came out of the 1979 murder trial of Dan White, whose lawyers included his junk food obsession among the

evidence of his supposed

altered state of mind.