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Kansans stock up on Hostess goodies; Emporia mourns job losses

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, at 9:17 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at 12:05 a.m.

Barbara Kirkpatrick grabbed the last box of Twinkies while shopping at Dillons, 640 N. West St., early Friday afternoon.

“It’s a shame,” Kirkpatrick said of Hostess’ bankruptcy. “I grew up with Twinkies. They were always in our house.”

Jacob Matsler, an off-duty Dillons employee, snagged the last four boxes of Ho Hos on the shelf, which he paired with cans of Mountain Dew.

“Me and my friends, when we had our all-nighters, this is the main snack we’d have playing Halo and Call of Duty,” Matsler said.

As word spread that Twinkies and other Hostess products would no longer be available, shoppers stopped by local grocers to get the last of them. Dillons spokeswoman Sheila Lowrie said the stores were limited to the products on hand.

But the shortage of beloved baked goods was also tied to local jobs lost.

At the Hostess location at 435 S. Eldora, the 23 employees found out they lost their jobs Friday morning or the night before. An employee there said they had hired a few more workers in the last four to six weeks.

An employee at the Wonder Hostess Bakery Outlet, 5010 S. Broadway, said their store might stay open a few more days, but only if there were still items to sell.

By noon Friday, most of the shelves were empty. That store had three employees.

Ruth Spriggs of Haysville said she had grown to know the employees well at the bakery outlet, where she had shopped at least once a week for the last 30 years.

“It just breaks my heart,” Spriggs said. “When the cost is half or a third at least, and preservatives keep it just like in the regular stores, then it makes it affordable for families and to share for church dinners, things like that. It makes it affordable to be generous.”

Now, she said she isn’t sure where she’s going to go for some of her grocery items. But she was glad to be able to get the ingredients for her Thanksgiving turkey gravy this year.

For Emporia, the economic impact will be significant, said Jeanine McKenna, president and CEO of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce.

Emporia’s Hostess-owned Dolly Madison bakery is one of the city’s top employers with more than 500 employees. The bakery also purchased agricultural products and services from around the region.

“Our thoughts go out to the employees and family members. They’ve demonstrated a lot of resilience.… It’s just a matter of us just continuing to learn more about what’s happening and pull together as a community,” McKenna said.

City leaders are meeting with the Kansas Department of Commerce and Kansas Works to determine the community’s next move, McKenna said.

In 2008, one of Emporia’s other largest employers, Tyson Foods, laid off hundreds of workers when it shut down its beef slaughter operations.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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