Behind the outlet center, at a Hostess distribution center, rows of delivery trucks with the familiar red, blue and yellow Wonder Bread logo sat parked on Friday. One worker outside the center offered a "no comment" before heading back inside.

Workers represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike Nov. 9 after a bankruptcy judge in White Plains, N.Y., imposed contract concessions opposed by 92 percent of the union's members. The union had called the proposed labor contract "horrendous."

"The crisis facing Hostess Brands is the result of nearly a decade of financial and operational mismanagement that resulted in two bankruptcies, mountains of debt, declining sales and lost market share," the union said Thursday in a statement. Hostess "attempted to resolve the mess by attacking the company's most valuable assets, its workers."

In the past 15 months, Hostess has unilaterally ended contractually obligated payments to the workers' pension plan, and demanded as much as 32 percent cuts in wages and benefits, the union said in the statement.

On Friday, the company asked the judge overseeing the bankruptcy to hold a Nov. 19 hearing to approve the company's request to liquidate. Some workers will be retained to clean plants and mothball equipment, Hostess said.

Bakers' union members "crippled the company's ability to produce and deliver products at multiple facilities," and "bakery operations have been suspended at all plants," the company said in a statement.

Officials at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents Hostess drivers, were "incredibly disappointed" and "angry" about the shutdown, Rayburn said. The Teamsters, which had ratified a new contract with wage concessions of 8 percent and benefit reductions of 17 percent, urged the bakers' union Thursday to let members decide by secret ballot whether to continue the strike.

Rayburn told Bloomberg that potential buyers have expressed interest in parts of the company, but that labor contracts and pension obligations have deterred bids for the company as a whole.

The company also makes the Dolly Madison, Drake's, Merita and Butternut brands.

"Hopefully, someone will buy the brands, and some of the brands can live on, but that's a pretty small consolation for people who are out of work," Rayburn said.

Clark was one of many customers on Friday echoing that sentiment.

"I hope someone takes it over," she said. "I can't imagine this not being a profitable business."

Restructuring specialists told Reuters the brand names were likely to be more valuable once they are separated from inefficient factories and sold to nonunion competitors.

"Can you imagine what Twinkies will go for? Jiminy!" said a person who did not want to be identified because his company planned to bid to be the liquidator. "And Wonder Bread? These are 100-year-old brands. They have to be worth a lot."

Bloomberg News and Reuters contributed to this article.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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