With the activity this week inside a small Spenard store, one might think there's a looming carbohydrate crisis in Anchorage. Lines have been forming up and down the partially empty store inside the Hostess bakery on Spenard Road. People have been gathering armloads of Wonder Bread, and Twinkies by the basketful.
The store is a part of Sunrise Bakery, an Anchorage landmark that has filled the air with the scent of baking bread for decades near Spenard Road and Hillcrest Drive. Its closure is imminent, a casualty of the pending shutdown of parent company Hostess Brands.
Exactly when it will close is a matter of speculation. Larry Brandt, general manager for Hostess Brands in Alaska, says the store will remain open only as long as it has product to sell. He couldn't share any more specifics, he said. Inside the store, employees said they thought another shipment might be coming.
Was Wednesday the last day you would be able to scoop up some Twinkies, Snowballs and Ding Dongs? Customers weren't waiting around to find out.
"It's been quite a madhouse," said employee Barbara Rahe. After 23 years with the company, she said she considered the store a second home. "I'm going to miss all my customers," she said.
Rahe stocked shelves Wednesday. Customers like Anita Caldwell filed through all day to empty them. Caldwell said the bread here cost half as much as comparable-quality loaves at the grocery store.
"I hate that they're going to close," she said.
Cashier Judy John-Baptiste didn't seem to let her looming unemployment spoil her mood. John-Baptiste said this is the first job she found in Anchorage after she moved here from Dominica. "Nothing's definite," she said. "They might call up tomorrow and say, ‘Don't come to work.’"
Still, she joked with customers, cheerfully scolded them for not counting their enormous hauls of Twinkie twin-packs before they got to the counter and joked that the treat might just be a viable alternative to Botox for those seeking to keep a youthful appearance.
"They're so chock-full of preservatives. Have a Twinkie," she said with a laugh.
While the nutritional value of some of the store's products might be, um, dubious, they're undeniably loaded with nostalgia. A few customers said they planned to give them out as stocking stuffers. Rita Woodard, a regular customer for years, loaded her arms with bread and one small pack of fig cookies. "I haven't had a fig cookie since I was a child," she said.
It’s not just sugary treats that brought in the customers. Dennis Davis said he often picked up a spice mix at the store that he used on his baked salmon. He considered buying a Sweet Bear Claw snack Thursday after hearing the store was going to close, but thought better of it after looking closely at the packaging.
“They say if there’s more than five ingredients, put it down,” Davis said. “There’s more than five rows of ingredients.”
James Demolina, a West High School junior, dropped in to the store to try his very first Twinkie Wednesday.
"I saw them on ‘Zombieland.’ I had to try it," he said before he pulled open the cellophane and stuffed a spongy bite into his mouth.
"It was a mistake not to come here earlier,” Demolina said.
It might not be too late to relive the magic moment. Rumors swirled that another shipment of goods was on its way to Anchorage, and that it might be enough to keep the store open another week. Employees expected they'd have more busy days ahead before they turn out the lights.
In a rare quiet moment Wednesday, I asked John-Baptiste what she planned to do next.
"Maybe go to medical school," she said. With a laugh she added, "Maybe take care of all the people eating this."