Hostess' demise leaves local restaurants scrambling for bread
Lillian Ford raided Aldi’s bread aisle Friday, looking for supplies a Hostess Brands driver previously delivered to Ray’s Rt. 66 Cafe.
Ford, who operates the Sherman restaurant with her husband, left the grocery store on North Fifth Street with 35 loaves of bread. But that didn’t mean her aforaging was complete.
“We’ve had to search around. And wherever I can get bread, I get bread,” said Ford. “I’m still looking for buns today.
“I’ll have to hit Wal-Mart next.”
The unexpected closure last month of Hostess Brands — maker of Wonder Bread, Beefsteak, Butternut Bread, Holsom, Home Pride, Nature’s Pride and several other brands of bread — amid labor disputes and bankruptcy proceedings has left area restaurants, schools and senior meal programs scrambling to fill the hole the 80-year-old business’s departure left in their menus.
Business on a bun
Management at Maid Rite Sandwich Shop, 118 N. Pasfield St., contemplated taking an unplanned holiday break when their regular Hostess Brands’ driver told them he’d been relieved of his keys.
“Here, 99.9 percent of our business is on a bun,” manager Sam Quaisi said, adding that the loose-meat landmark goes through an average of 300 buns daily.
Instead, Maid Rite has patched its menu together with trips to local grocery stores, frozen buns from GFS Marketplace and, most recently, a budding relationship with a Chicago-based supplier, Alpha Baking Company.
“We’ve been going crazy trying to find buns to keep the business going,” Quaisi said.
Maid Rite wasn’t alone.
Beverly Linklater of Alpha Baking said the business has opened 347 new accounts in central Illinois within the past four weeks.
“We’ve gotten a lot of new accounts down there,” she said.
Area grocery stores, however, initially found themselves filling the void.
“There’s days I’ll be walking the floors and the bread aisle is full one moment and wiped out by the time I complete rounds,” said Kevin Garner, store director of the County Market at 1903 W. Monroe St. “Fresh breads, buns in the bakery have really picked up, too.”
Garner said stores couldn’t just order more bread products because suppliers’ production lines weren’t prepared for the vacuum left by Hostess, which had the lion’s share of local commercial business.
“Things are a lot better now than initially,” he said. “Companies filling in have gotten production increased enough to accommodate (the demand.)”
Cafeteria workers at the Springfield School District had to show some ingenuity.
“For a short period, we used substitutes we already had in stock, adjusting recipes, while we were looking for a different vendor,” district spokesman Pete Sherman said. “It’d be like putting peanut butter and jelly on rolls instead of bread. It was the same food group.”
The district has a short-term contract with M. J. Kellner until a long-term contract can be secured through competitive bidding, Sherman said.
The Daily Bread program, which operates from the Springfield Senior Center, took a different route.
The not-for-profit organization’s tight budget has made it difficult to find a replacement bread supplier. In the meantime, the agency — which provides lunch for more than 300 senior citizens Monday through Friday — is making dinner rolls from scratch daily.
“It just takes better time management,” one kitchen worker said. Natalie Morris can be reached through the metro desk at 788-1517.
*** Hostess’ U.S. brands
Bread du Jour
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