Hostess closure hits Tenn. workers, Metro schools - WKRN News 2

Hostess closure hits Tenn. workers, Metro schools

Posted: Updated: Nov 16, 2012 09:37 PM

Several hundred workers statewide are out of a job following the wind down of Hostess Brands on Friday.

The company most well known for snack cakes like Twinkies, Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs officially closed all bakeries, distribution centers and bakery outlets on Friday.

The biggest impact was in east and west Tennessee. An estimated 300 workers lost their jobs at bakeries in Knoxville and Memphis.

For workers at the distribution center on Charlotte Avenue in Nashville, the news hit hard.

"You never think a big business like this is going to go down," said delivery driver Jon Rayburn. "You're like, 'Well, they've been around forever. They'll be around forever.'"

Rayburn was one of 25 drivers out of the Charlotte Avenue location. The group stocked stores, school districts and prison systems along 16 routes in Middle Tennessee.

Workers knew the company was in trouble, but had hoped things would turn around.

"When you finally get the word from the boss man, you know it's not good a good thing," Jason Highsmith, another delivery driver, said. "Nobody wants to lose their job."

Drivers made their last runs on Friday. At the loading docks, they were told to empty their trucks of products and personal items.

"You got to try to figure out ways to get through that, pay bills, also deal with the holiday and family stuff," Highsmith added. "It's going to be difficult until you find something else."

The distribution center is attached to a bakery outlet, a market where Hostess Brand products are sold at discounted prices.

When the shelves are empty, the outlet will also shutdown.

Patricia Keith, a clerk for nearly five years, told Nashville's News 2 she's worried about her customers.

"The people that can't afford to go to Kroger or Walmart or whatever, they're going to be hurting," she said.

At Metro Nashville Public Schools nutrition services officials are working to find another bread vendor. Hostess supplied loaves of bread, buns and other bread products to schools.

"We were notified earlier this afternoon that the bakery was no longer going to be in service as of 5 p.m. today," Director of Nutrition Services Spencer Taylor said. "What my staff and I have been doing is putting out feelers to other regional providers in the area."

Bread and grains are a federally required part of the 55,000 meals Metro Nashville Schools serve in its schools.

"The contingency plan right now is to find someone who can actually handle our volume," Taylor said. "We will be getting ready to put out bids for more permanent services to carry us through the school year."

Taylor said the district's cafeterias have enough bread for meals through next week. The school week is only three days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

If they district can not find a bread vendor, cafeterias will have to get creative.

"We will have to do some changes to our menu we will have to look at some other grain options to provide," Taylor said. "We may have to do a little more baking but we will provide options to satisfy that bread requirement we have to meet."

Hostess Brands has operated in some capacity since the late 1800s. The company cited ongoing financial trouble and a nationwide baker's union strike for the final decision to close.

The company plans to sell its assets, including its brand names, to the highest bidder.

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