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Jitters began days ahead of closing

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Rachel Shelton, manager of Personal Finance Co. on Central Avenue, started worrying three days ago that the end was near for the Hostess-owned Dolly Madison plant here.

That’s because her phone started ringing with inquiries from several Dolly Madison employees who had borrowed money from her company before going on strike Nov. 9.

Shelton said the bakery workers were afraid they’d lose their jobs, and have trouble repaying their loans, if Hostess carried through on a pledge to shutter the whole company if a union walkout continued.

“They wanted to stretch out payments, get them down, on used-car and debt-consolidation loans,” said Shelton, whose finance company sits a quarter-mile from the Dolly Madison operation on National Road.

On Friday, parent company Hostess Brands followed through on its promise to close the company nationwide and sell assets when the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union didn’t end its strike.

The move will put more than 18,000 employees out of work, including more than 200 in Columbus.

Shelton and other business operators near the plant in a stretch of the city sprinkled with fast-food outlets, strip malls and auto parts shops, now are wondering what impact the loss of 200-plus jobs will have on the local economy.

“Right now, the economy is tough all over,” said Dan Stadtmiller, general manager of Caddies Pub, a restaurant and bar a block away from Shelton’s finance company. “Coming on the heels of Cummins saying it’s going to layoff (150) workers at the end of the year, this can’t be good. It means people will spend less money for Christmas or they’ll eat out less or tip less.”

Shelton said she knows her Dolly Madison borrowers will still try to repay loans that averaged $3,000 apiece, but “the impact of this will get worse as time goes on. People borrowed to buy furniture, consolidate credit card debt, go on vacation,” she said.

Stadtmiller blames members of Local 132 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union for the plant closure.

Bakers union members nationwide were protesting a proposed 8 percent pay cut, higher health insurance costs and reduced pensions Hostess said it needed to survive. Stadtmiller said employees should have realized Hostess couldn’t make a go of it without concessions from the union.

“I read (Hostess) lost $330 million last year,” he said. “That’s a huge loss. I am not a big supporter of what the union is doing. (The strike) just put a nail in the coffin of an already feeble company.”

Retailers who stock Hostess Brands products also reacted to Hostess’ news. Among them was Circle K Stores, whose director of marketing was communicating with key associates inside the convenience-store chain.

Circle K, whose Midwest and Great Lakes divisions are based in Columbus, is contracting with new suppliers for roller-grill buns, cake and pastries, and retail bread, said Trey Powell, whose internal memo was also sent by the company to The Republic.

Powell said Circle K is working with Bon Appetit and Little Debbie to step up production and deliveries. “They have been authorized to merchandise product on Hostess racks or other reasonable locations in our stores, at least temporarily, to ensure we remain in stock for customers,” Powell said.

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