The maker of the iconic U.S. snack Twinkies said Friday it is going out of business and laying off all of its 18,500 workers after a national strike crippled its operations.
In Nashville, 26 people are losing their jobs, including Patricia Keith, who worked as a cashier at the Charlotte Avenue outlet store for five years.
"I've got to find another job," she said. "I've got grandchildren to take care of."
Shoppers rushed into the Nashville store to stock up on items for the last time.
"Ding-dongs, Twinkies, Susie-Qs, apple pies. It's kind of heartbreaking," said shopper Michael Lohmiller.
"I heard it on the radio," said Nate Logan. "I wasn't sure. I picked my son and said, 'we're going to the store.'"
"I don't know if they thought that was a bluff," CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said on CNBC Friday. He said the financial impact of the strike makes it "too late" to save the company even if workers have a change of heart. That's because the clients such as retailers decide to stop carrying products when supplies aren't adequate.
The company, founded in 1930, was fighting battles beyond labor costs.Competition is increasing in the snack space, and Americans are increasingly conscious about healthy eating.
The cake-like Twinkies had gained a cultural reputation in recent years for being nearly indestructible, documented in playful videos and blogs.
Hostess Brands had warned employees that it would file a motion in U.S.Bankruptcy Court to unwind its business and sell assets if plant operations didn't return to normal levels by Thursday evening.
The privately held Texas company filed for protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade.
"Many people have worked incredibly long and hard to keep this from happening, but now Hostess Brands has no other alternative than to begin the process of winding down and preparing for the sale of our iconic brands,"Rayburn said in a letter to employees posted on the company website.
He added that all employees will eventually lose their jobs, "some sooner than others."
Rayburn said he's hopeful that the company will find buyers for its roster of about 30 brands, which include Ho Hos, Dolly Madison, Drake's and Nature'sPride snacks. The company books about $2.5 billion in sales a year.
Thousands of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike last week after rejecting inSeptember a contract offer that cut wages and benefits.
Rayburn said the union's leadership had misled members into believing there was a buyer in the wings who would rescue the company. He said the union hadn't returned the company's calls for the past month.
A union representative did not immediately return a call from The AssociatedPress seeking comment.
Hostess had already reached a contract agreement with its largest union, theInternational Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Hostess has said that production at about a dozen of the company's 33 plant shad been seriously affected by the strike. Three plants were closed earlier this week.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. Materials from Associated Press used in this report.