After 52 years of serving St. Clair and the surrounding area, the local Wonder Bread/Hostess Cakes bakery outlet officially closed its doors at 2 p.m. on Monday.
Manager Susie Brown told The Missourian that she was informed by the regional bakery in St. Louis on Friday morning that the store would close and that Monday would be the last day of business.
“We didn’t have anything left, so we closed early,” Brown said less than an hour after the outlet located at 440 E. Gravois Ave. locked its doors. “It’s devastating. I still can’t believe it. It’s like a bad dream.”
The Associated Press reported last week that Hostess Brands Inc. was going out of business after striking workers across the country crippled its ability to make snack cakes such as Twinkies and Ding Dongs as well as its Wonder Bread and other items.
The company had warned employees that it would file a motion with U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Friday seeking permission to shutter its operations and sell assets if plants didn’t resume normal operations by a Thursday evening deadline.
The closing means a loss of about 18,500 jobs, including 13 in St. Clair.
St. Clair’s jobs include Brown’s, another store worker, eight drivers, two mechanics and a back shop supervisor.
Brown added that as news of the closing spread, the business set a one-day sales record on Friday and had almost the same amount of business on Saturday. By Monday, however, shelves almost were empty.
“We haven’t received any bakery items for weeks,” she said, adding that a normal sales day consists of maybe about $1,000 in business but Friday exceeded that by nearly threefold.
“A lot of people have wished us well,” Brown said. “We have a lot of great customers.”
Brown said the business at the intersection of Highway 30 and Bardot Street always has been a Wonder Bread/Hostess Cakes outlet.
“This has been a vital part of the community for a long time,” she said.
Brown said Monday afternoon that all that remained inside was store were 14 fruitcakes and a couple of packages of gravy mix. The fruitcakes were part of an October shipment of 14 cases of 48 cakes each that were expected to last through the holidays.
The shelves holding the foodstuffs already had been taken down by 3 p.m. Monday, and Brown and other employees were cleaning the empty building, which belongs to the St. Clair R-XIII School District.
“It’s just mind-boggling,” Brown said.
Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, suspended its bakery operations at its 33 factories last week and said its stores will remain open for “several days” to sell already packaged products. The privately held company filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade.
Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike this month after rejecting in September a contract offer that slashed wages and benefits. Hostess said Friday the company is unprofitable “under its current cost structure, much of which is determined by Union wages and pension costs.”
However, it was reported on Monday that Hostess Brands Inc, its lenders and the unions representing its striking workers, agreed to start mediation hearings on Tuesday at the urging of a U.S. bankruptcy court judge.