February 3, 2013

Life after Hostess

While they hope that the Biddeford bakery will reopen, those who lost their jobs are trying to move forward.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - After a few weeks of unemployment, Bob Prescott sat down for a serious talk with his wife.

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BOB PRESCOTT: A former route sales driver, Prescott, 59, will begin a truck driving course this week and is excited about the new opportunity.

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SUE TAPLEY: A former mixer, Tapley, 58, hopes to return to the bakery, but has created a resume and applied for jobs online for the first time in her life.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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With his job as a route sales driver for Hostess behind him, Prescott was considering a new career as a truck driver that would take him away from home for a week or more at a time. Were he and his wife, Nora, willing to make that sacrifice?

The answer was yes.

Now, two months after Prescott lost his job when Hostess shuttered its Biddeford bakery, he has passed his permit test and is gearing up to start a truck driving course this week. When he's done, he'll be certified to drive the largest trucks on the road. He expects to be away from home for a week at a time if he lands a job with one of the companies that recruit from driving schools.

"We have said this career change and getting certified for a license will take us in a different direction in our personal lives," Prescott said.

Prescott, 59, of Portland is among the 370 employees in Biddeford who lost their jobs when Hostess went out of business, a week into a nationwide strike. Hostess received final bankruptcy court approval Nov. 21 to close 33 bakeries, putting 15,000 U.S. employees out of work, including 500 in Maine. Another 3,200 will be unemployed nationally after the company finishes closing this year.

While former Hostess employees look for work and retrain for new careers, some are also keeping an eye on the sale of Hostess' various food brands to other companies in hopes that the Biddeford bakery will reopen.

Flowers Foods signed an agreement in January to buy the Biddeford plant as part of its effort to acquire some of Hostess' assets. The Georgia-based company placed two bids, totaling $390 million, to buy six of Hostess' bread brands -- including Wonder Bread and Beefsteak -- as well as 20 bakeries and 38 distribution centers. The Biddeford plant is among the 20 bakeries.

Flowers' bid will be a starting point for an auction in March.

CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC

Hostess announced last week that it had chosen a joint offer from Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. as the lead bid for Twinkies and other cake brands. Apollo and Metropoulos offered as much as $410 million for the Hostess snack-cake business, five bakeries and equipment.

Sue Tapley, a former bakery worker from Scarborough, is keeping a close eye on the bankruptcy process. She checks online every day, not only for open job listings but also for any mention of Hostess in the news.

"You could stay on this all day," Tapley said recently as she scrolled through an online list of stories about Hostess. "You can read it and you get your hopes up, but then it says (the sale) is subject to this and subject to that. I would like to work, but I would love to go back to the bakery. I'm kind of hoping that will work out."

But Tapley isn't banking on it.

While she waits for news about the fate of the Biddeford bakery, Tapley is focusing on a job search that is more complex than she thought it would be.

Tapley, 58, was four years away from retiring when she lost her job as a mixer. She had worked at Hostess for 14 years, the first time in years she worked only one full-time job. Her current job search marks the first time she has created a resume, searched the Internet for job listings and filled out online applications. She spends four hours on the search each day.

(Continued on page 2)

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MICHAEL BOURGAULT: Bourgault, 54, has applied for a retraining program for military veterans.

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