Posted 11/21/12 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
On Friday, Nov. 16, Hostess Brands Inc. announced that it is winding down operations and has filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to close its business and sell its assets, including iconic brands like Hostess, Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Twinkies and Ho Ho’s, to name a few.
According to their website, bakery operations have been suspended at all plants. Delivery of all products will continue and Hostess Brands retail stores will remain open for several days in order to sell already-baked products.
This stoppage is the result of a Bakers Union strike and the ramifications are tremendous for McKenzie County residents, because according to Bill Liebel, owner of Liebel’s Jack & Jill grocery store, the Hostess brand has been delivering bread and has been the area’s only supplier for over 40 years.
“Other companies have come in and asked for space on my shelf and I have committed it to them,” states Liebel. “They either never show up or they don’t last.”
Liebel states that other distributors are able to supply Williston, Minot, Dickinson and New Town, but they don’t seem to be able to retain drivers for a route to Watford City.
With the only bread supplier willing to commit to Watford City now closing its doors, what does this mean for Watford City?
“It is hard because we’ve depended on the same distributor for so many years,” states David Tschetter of Mike’s Super Valu.
“We’ll learn how to deal with this, but it may be a bit of a painful process,” states Liebel, both referring to the fact that the area Hostess distributor came every Monday, Wednesday and Friday without fail and without Liebel or Tschetter having to put in an order.
“They would just come, look at our shelves and restock them. I have never had to order bread before,” Liebel states. “This will take a while to figure out, but we will do the best we can.”
It is not simply an issue of bread and it does not just affect Watford City.
Nash Finch is Liebel’s grocery supplier out of Minot. According to Liebel, one of his solutions for bringing bread into his store is to order it from Nash Finch. The only downfall is that it has to be done a week ahead of time, and when the truck comes, they bring bread for his store, as well as a store in Poplar, Mont. and Scoby, Mont.
“Last week when they came, the truck was full of orders for all three stores, and that didn’t include bread,” Liebel states. “I don’t know how they are going to have room for all of our grocery orders and orders for a week’s worth of bread. Not only that, but if I have to get a week’s worth of bread at a time, I don’t know where I am going to store it.”
Liebel states that he has other solutions, one being ordering a Baker Boy product that comes in for the local schools on a U.S. Foods or Food Services of America truck.
“I have doubts that Baker Boy will be able to keep up, though,” states Liebel. “It is not just us and Mike’s Super Valu. There are a lot of stores affected.”
Williston, for instance, has another supplier, but without the Hostess distributor, Liebel expects them to have trouble keeping up with Williston’s needs.
There is a possible solution in the Sara Lee company, who has a distributor that delivers to Williston and Minot.
“They have told me they expect to have a driver and should be able to put us on their route within a couple of weeks. But I expect it could take a month or even longer,” Liebel states.
In the meantime, Liebel’s Jack & Jill and Mike’s Super Valu will keep doing the best they can.
“We like having bread on our shelves, so we will keep trying to find distributors and a solution,” states Tschetter.
Jack & Jill and Mike’s Super Valu will not be expecting any more deliveries from their Hostess distributor as, according to their website, they are unprofitable under their current cost structure, much of which has been determined by union wages and pension costs.