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It’s not just about Twinkies: Local store closes, restaurants short on bread

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Mike Fields looks at the empty bread shelves Saturday morning at the Holsum bread store in Natchez. The store had sold out of its last stock of bread earlier in the morning due to the closing of Hostess.

NATCHEZ — When ordering a hamburger at a local restaurant this week, customers might get an unusual question — would you like a bun with that?

While much has been made nationally of the immanent loss of the Twinkie due to the closure of Hostess and its associated brands, the ripple effects of that news were felt locally in unexpected ways Friday and Saturday.

As part of the company’s liquidation plan, the Holsum bakery in Alexandria, La., which supplies bread products locally, was shut down with close to no warning Friday. That not only affects local grocery suppliers, but restaurant clients who depended on the bakery’s fresh biweekly deliveries.

The Malt Shop owner Gloria Neames said she received her bread shipment from Holsum Friday morning and was given an invoice, as usual. Not long after, a friend called her and said that they weren’t going to be getting any more shipments. Confused, Neames said she called the Alexandria office to confirm the rumor.

When she found out it was true, Neames decided to head to the Holsum bread store, since she would not be getting her usual Saturday morning shipment of bread.

“I went over to the bread store to at least stock up to get through the weekend, and when I got there they told me they were closing down and that Dairy Queen had beaten me to the punch,” Neames said.

“I got whatever I could get at the bread store. I got hot dog buns and all the hamburger buns they had left.”

The sudden closure of the bakery has left many of the local mom-and-pop restaurants in a sudden lurch to find a new bread supplier, Neames said, and though she made multiple efforts to connect with a regional bakery Friday, she couldn’t get through because the line was busy.

It’s possible local restaurants could run out of buns before the situation is resolved, she said.

“Everybody is in such a panic,” she said. “All we are trying to do is cover ourselves. This is one of our busiest weeks of the year, when all the college kids are in, kids are out of school and people come home for Thanksgiving and they want to get their Malt Shop fix, we are scrambling in the backfield trying to cover ourselves.”

At the Holsum bread store in Natchez, supervisor Joey Bonnette said the seven employees there did not know of the imminent closure until Friday morning, but some deliveries were made anyway. The store was kept open Saturday to clear out the inventory left on the shelves.

“Usually we get a new shipment in the evenings, and we didn’t Thursday,” Bonnette said.

“We weren’t able to service everybody because we didn’t have enough product.”

While they weren’t able to make deliveries to all of their customers Friday, Bonnette said he worked with some of Holsum’s clients to connect them with other product makers in the baking industry. Holsum bread is also produced by Flowers Foods, the makers of Whitewheat and Nature’s Own breads.

In addition to producing Holsum, Hostess Brands makes Wonder Bread, Nature’s Pride, Dolly Madison, Butternut Breads, Drake’s, Eddy’s, Nature’s Pride, Blue Ribbon, Baker’s Inn, Home Pride and other brands. That equals a lot of supermarket shelf space that will suddenly need filling.

“There are probably going to be a couple of days in between that we will be short of product, and it may cause the consumers not to find certain brands they are used to, but there will be products on the shelf,” said Barry Loy, director of operations for The Markets in Natchez, Vidalia and Ferriday.

“There’s probably not going to be a short-term solution to that. All we can hope for is that somewhere down the line another company buys out the Hostess label and starts to produce the products. It is going to leave a big hole in the product lines for a while.”

The Holsum bakery closure in Alexandria also affects The Markets in another way — the store brand Shurfresh bread was produced there. Loy said The Markets were able to arrange for Flowers bakeries to start producing the Shurfresh label bread. That should start arriving Monday morning, Loy said.

Until then, Natchez will have to wait and see if it will have to weather a hamburger bun shortage.

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