FAIRBANKS — It was Friday morning when Janice Sterud heard the ominous news. Hostess, the maker of mass-produced sugary confections, was going out of business.
Sterud promised her 11-year-old son, Jordan, that they’d mark the occasion by heading to the store to buy a package of Twinkies. But when they arrived in the Fred Meyer West Hostess aisle at about 3:15 p.m., Janice could only give a glum-looking Jordan a consolation hug.
They were already sold out.
“There’s Suzy Q’s, there’s Zingers,” she said, scanning the picked-over selections at Fred Meyer West. “But Twinkies are the best.”
The drawing power of the sweets on Fairbanksans became clear on Friday, with store shelves emptied of the most popular brands as word of the Hostess bankruptcy spread.
Fred Meyer West store director David Atlee said he’d sold a week’s worth of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos in less than a day. Selections of Wonder Bread and CupCakes were being rapidly depleted as well.
Atlee thought the local distributor might be able to stock the shelves with Hostess products once more before supplies vanished altogether.
“I should raffle them off,” he said with a chuckle.
Fairbanks Distributors, which offers Hostess products to local stores, didn’t have an immediate comment on remaining supplies.
Owner Wayne Carter was out of town Friday when Hostess announced it was halting operations.
The run on Hostess products came after the Irving, Texas-based company filed a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Friday to liquidate. The closure results in the loss of about 18,500 jobs, with future operations suspended.
The company had been struggling to control costs amid a dispute with its bakers union.
The union, which represented about 30 percent of Hostess’ workforce, went on strike last week.
Hostess had filed for bankruptcy in January, the second time its parent company had gone bankrupt since 2004.
There’s still a possibility that some of its most popular brands could live on, since another company could buy the right to distribute some of its products. But as of Friday, distributors were saying that less than a week’s worth of Hostess products remained.
Alaska Commercial Company, which operates 27 grocery stores in rural Alaska, was told by its Anchorage distributor on Friday morning that the company would be making its final Hostess deliveries that day. AC spokesman Gary Long said the distributor was clearly stunned by the liquidation news.
“That was it — goodbye,” he said. “It’s a shame.”
Long said he isn’t aware of any special affinity rural Alaska has for any of the Hostess brands. But he predicted its signature item — a super-sweet sponge cake with an astonishing shelf life — will be particularly missed.
“You can’t replace the Twinkie,” he said. “There’s just nothing else out there like it.”
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.