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I could’ve added this entry to the end of my previous one on the Maryland Faerie Festival because I found this store just a few miles from the festival fairgrounds in the town of Darlington. But I decided to make it as a separate post instead because seeing this particular store has brought back a bunch of childhood memories for me.

I was born in Baltimore and I lived there until I was five years old because my parents decided that they would rather live in the suburbs. My mother even confessed to me years later that she and my father deliberately picked an area where mass transit was non-existent because she was so desperate to put all forms of city life behind her. So we moved to Glen Burnie where her wish came true because you literally had to get into a car if you wanted to do even something simple like buying a gallon of milk because the stores were at least three miles away from our development.

While I was in elementary school some developer decided to build a small commercial building at the entrance to our development and a local High’s Dairy Store opened there. That High’s was the only store within a safe walking distance from where I lived. (There were some other stores located further away but it involved walking along the very busy Crain Highway and there were times—mainly rush hour—when you did not dare walk along that road.) Throughout my childhood and teen years (prior to getting a driver’s license) I would walk at least 15 minutes whenever I was in the mood for some candy. Sometimes I would walk with a friend or two.

High’s was your typical convenience store which sold mostly candy and sodas. It also sold some household items as well (such as toilet paper or aspirin) but they tended to be sold in smaller packages and they were higher priced than buying similar items in a grocery store. But the best feature about Highs was its ice cream, which especially came in handy during the blistering hot summer months. I bought many ice cream cones, popsicles, and ice cream sandwiches from that store.

High’s wasn’t the kind of store where you could spend a long time leisurely browsing (in fact the store clerks would start getting surly with you if you spent too long browsing the store aisles). It was the kind of store where you went in, grabbed what you needed, paid for it, then leave as soon as possible.

The High’s in my neighborhood closed for good after I went to the University of Maryland at College Park. Since then a variety of small businesses (ranging from a beauty salon to a tiny CD music store) have come and gone in High’s former location.

In the DC area I knew of two remaining High’s Dairy Stores and they were both located in Laurel. One was in the Historic Main Street District and the other was near the intersection of Routes 197 and 198. I would go to one or the other from time to time but not very often. Both of them have since left. One became a 7-Eleven and the other became a family-owned convenience store that isn’t affiliated with any major franchise.

So when I decided to leave the Maryland Faerie Festival, I foolishly followed a driver in front of me instead of programming the GPS navigation system in my smartphone so I ended up taking a different route from when I arrived to Camp Ramblewood (where the festival was held). I ultimately ended up on Route 1 so I decided to drive on that street for a while. I was also tired and overheated because the temperature that day was in the low 90’s with high humidity to match. I wanted to buy a diet soda so I could have enough caffeine that would keep me awake for the long trip home.

My wishes were answered when I was in the main area of Darlington and I found a High’s Dairy Store. I was surprised to find one because all the other High’s I was familiar with had either closed or been converted to other convenience stores unaffiliated with High’s. (In fact, according to the Wikipedia, High’s once had locations in DC and Virginia as well as Maryland and it had expanded to 350 stores. Since the 1980’s, it has shrunk down to just 50 locations in Maryland and Delaware.) I felt like I had encountered something from my childhood. I decided to take a couple of photos of that store for posterity since I don’t know when I’ll encounter another High’s Dairy Store. The next photo shows the front of the store, which was typical for a High’s Dairy Store.

photo1

This particular High’s location happened to sell gasoline, which made this one different from the other High’s I was familiar with (which were just convenience stores only).

photo2

I took just a couple of indoor shots. Basically the High’s was just as I remembered it where it was a small store that had mostly candy, snacks, ice cream, sodas, and small household items. This High’s was slightly bigger than the High’s I grew up with in Glen Burnie but it’s still not the kind of store that’s made for long leisurely browsing.

photo3

After I took that last shot, the store clerk yelled “Are you taking pictures?” at me. I put the smartphone back in my shorts pocket while the store clerk was busy with another customer.

photo4

I basically picked up a Diet Pepsi for myself, paid for it, then left. The clerk didn’t ask me any questions about my picture taking and I didn’t offer any information. I decided to just get out of there quickly then make the long drive back to my home near Washington, DC.

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The past few days the U.S. has been rocked by news of the sudden closing of a beloved iconic company, Hostess, the maker of the famous Twinkies along with other beloved snacks like Ho Hos, Suzi-Q, Zingers, Snowballs, and more.

What the hell happened? Hostess claimed that it was those greedy unions members who went on strike because they wanted their pay and benefits increased to outrageous levels and the company had no other option but to close. However if you look at other sources, you’d know that it wasn’t that nasty union who forced Hostess to close down for good due to its sheer greed. Hostess went into bankruptcy for the second time since 2009. For the past 8 years Hostess has had 6 CEOs (none of whom with experience in the bread or cake baking industry) and it had been owned by Wall Street investors: so-called “restructuring experts,” managers from other non-baking food companies, and now a “liquidation specialist.”

The union members who are now blamed for the Hostess closings had watched as money from previous concessions that was supposed to go toward capital investment, product development, plant improvement and new equipment was squandered in executive bonuses, payouts to Wall Street investors and payments to high-priced attorneys and consultants. Over the past 15 months, Hostess workers have seen the company unilaterally end contractually obligated payments to their pension plan. Despite saving more than $160 million with this action, the company fell deeper into debt.

If all that wasn’t enough, creditors of Hostess Brands Inc. said in court papers the company may have "manipulated" its executives’ salaries higher in the months leading up to its Chapter 11 filing, in what the creditors called a possible effort by Hostess to "sidestep" Bankruptcy Code compensation provisions. The high pay that Hostess executives received had been going on for years. One example: Hostess’s then-CEO, Brian Driscoll, saw his salary rise to $2.55 million from $750,000—a 300% increase.

Basically what those Wall Street investors did to Hostess was what Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital did to the now-defunct KB Toys: Purchased a profitable company whose products these investors had little or no prior experience in, drastically slashed workers’ salaries and benefits, laid off scores of employees, refused to invest in things like research and development or new equipment, and paid themselves outrageous salaries and bonuses until the company began to hemorrage money so much that it had to close.

Hostess was one of those solid American brands that many people were familiar with. I know that Hostess was a major part of my youth. I had lots of memories snacking on things like Ho Hos, Twinkies, and Suzy-Q. When I was younger I used to frequently eat a Hostess snack as a dessert with my lunch. I never forgot when I spent my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College when someone from Hostess sent two of its employees to the college’s Student Center. One person was dressed as the Twinkies mascot while the other person gave away free Twinkies to students.

Here’s another memory I’m going to divulge. My husband, who abruptly ran away from home last December and has largeley avoided me since, once told me a deep dark secret when he saw me snacking on a Twinkie. At the time we were both students at the University of Maryland at College Park and we had been dating seriously for at least six months or more. My future estranged husband told me that when he was an undergraduate student at Oberlin College he worked at the radio station there when he was snacking on a Twinkie and another campus radio station person saw him and started calling him "Twinkie." That Twinkie nickname stuck for the next four years that he was at Oberlin.

My husband didn’t want me to tell anyone about how he was once nicknamed Twinkie. If he hadn’t walked out on me last December with zero notice, I would not be revealing his secret in this blog post.

Yesterday I decided to head out for a final visit to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop in Beltsville, Maryland. I didn’t go there very often mainly because the majority of the food sold there wasn’t very healthy for me and if I got a craving for Hostess there is a convenience store closer to my home that I usually go to buy such a snack. But the white building and the colorful sign was definitely a fixture on Route 1.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

A fleet of Hostess trucks was parked in the back of the building after the trucks made their last delivery of Hostess products ever.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Despite the building’s large size on the outside, the store itself is pretty small. It was very crowded with people buying up as many Hostess products as possible before the store closed for good. Some shelves were already empty when I got there.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Hostess’ most famous brand is Twinkies. When I was at the store, the only Twinkes that were still in stock was a special edition Chocolate Creme Twinkies.

A Farewell to Hostess

As I looked at the inventory that was left, I found some surprises—I never knew that Hostess made cereal. (That’s what I get for not visiting the store more often when I had the chance.)

A Farewell to Hostess

After I purchased what I picked up, I put my bags in the car then I walked over to the 7-11 that is in the shopping center located next door to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop. I found a few more Hostess products on that shelf but, alas, no Twinkies. I bought some other products that I didn’t find at the other store. I ultimately had three shopping bags full of Hostess products.

A Farewell to Hostess

This is the only healthy Hostess product that I purchased. It’s for its unsweetened Toasted Oats that’s basically Hostess’ version of Cheerios.

A Farewell to Hostess

The back of the ceral box had some basic facts about animals that kids (and animal lovers in general) would be interested in.

A Farewell to Hostess

Since I didn’t find the regular Twinkies, I went ahead and purchased a box of the Chocolate Creme Twinkies. It’ll be close enough to the Twinkies that I fondly remember eating.

A Farewell to Hostess

I purchased three different flavors of Hostess Donettes—chocolate frosted with a yellow cake, chocolate frosted with a devil’s food cake, and powdered sugar with a yellow cake.

A Farewell to Hostess

Rounding out my purchases are the following products: Suzy Q’s, Hostess Cup Cakes, Ho Hos, and Fudge Grahams Cookies.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Today after church I decided to make one more trip to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop in Beltsville. I had The Smiths’ "How Soon is Now" playing in my car as I arrived to the store’s front parking lot. In a way the pulsing rhythms and the overall depressing tone of that song made for a fitting soundtrack because I learned from one of the employees that today is the last day that the store would be open to the general public.

Today the prices were slashed even further than yesterday.

A Farewell to Hostess

There were even more empty shelves than before.

A Farewell to Hostess

As I browsed the stuff that were left on the shelves, I found that this particular Hostess store sold products by other manufacturers such as the ones I photographed.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

This next photo shows how abrupt the closing of Hostess really was. The store had decorations up for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday. Ironically the Hostess employees who are in the process of being laid-off will probably have a hard time finding much to be thankful for.

A Farewell to Hostess

I didn’t buy as much today as I did yesterday mainly because I had either already purchased enough of the products I wanted yesterday or because the products I was interested in (like the original Twinkies with the vanilla cream filling) were sold out. I purchased a couple more boxes of Hostess’ version of Cherrios cereal along with these two new Hostess products.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

I plan on being very slow about consuming these products over the next few months in order to savor my last taste of these products and to prevent rapid weight gain. I hope I can discipline myself. I have to balance eating these products before they go stale with not eating them so fast that I gain enough weight to make my clothes a tight fit. I know that I need to make sure that I exercise as much as possible in order to burn some of these empty calories that are in Hostess products.

Unless a different company buys the Twinkies recipe and the right to manufacture them, if I have a desire for Twinkies in the future, I will have to closely watch this YouTube video of Jolene Sugarbaker demonstrating how to make Twinkies knock-offs.

In addition, I came across this site that has recipes where you can attempt to replicate 9 Hostess treats—Cup Cakes, Donettes, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, Sno Balls, Suzy Q, Chocodiles, and Ho Hos.

A Farewell to Hostess Part 2 (December 1, 2012)

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