BIDDEFORD — The former Hostess bakery is up for sale, with an asking price of $8.45 million, after sitting vacant for nearly two years. The listing ends the possibility that owner Flowers Foods will reopen the baking operation, which provided about 400 jobs.

For several weeks in November 2012, 1 Bakers Way on the Biddeford spur was populated by picket signs and striking workers as former Hostess Bakery employees protested lack of pension payments and the terms of the latest union contract.

Partly as a result of the strike in Biddeford, and at Hostess bakeries around the country, the company folded and sold off its assets, including its branded products such as Twinkies.

Last year, Flowers Foods, Inc. of Thomsaville, Ga. paid $355 million for Hostess bread brands Wonder, Merita, Home Pride, Butternut and Nature’s Pride, as well as 36 depots and 20 bakeries, including the one in Biddeford.

Since purchasing the Biddeford bakery, the company had been relatively silent about its plans for the local facility until the recent sale notice.

“We have listed the Biddeford bakery and eight other closed Hostess bakeries for sale because they do not fit with our strategic growth plan and are located in areas where we have sufficient production capacity,” stated Flowers Foods spokeswoman Sally Bowman in an email. “Equipment inside the building will either be sold or moved to other bakeries we operate.”

The decision to sell the bakeries is different from what company representatives said after the purchase was approved by federal regulators in August. At that time, a statement on the company website stated, “Our hope is that consumer demand will increase as we re-introduce the Hostess bread brands. We are planning to re-open bakeries as we need additional capacity.”

The Biddeford bakery facility has been on the market for several weeks, said Biddeford’s Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson, and there has been some interest. Stevenson said he knows of two potential buyers.

The property is a good value, he said. According to the City of Biddeford website, it is appraised at $16.9 million ”“ approximately twice the asking price. The building is 265,000 square feet and includes high-bay manufacturing/distribution space, an office and a mechanical area with a separate 6,800-square-foot truck maintenance building, according to its listing. The site is 40 acres and includes on-site parking. It is located near the Maine Turnpike exit, and there is railroad access as well. The Boulos Company in Portland is the real estate agent for the property.

“There’s a lot of economic life left in it,” said Stevenson about the bakery, and added, “It’s in a great location. I think it’s desirable.

“The question is, who’s going to buy it and sit on it if there is no tenant?”

The bakery’s November 2012 closure coincided with the November strike by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, who were protesting actions taken by the company. These actions included not paying into an employee pension plan, as well as wage concessions Hostess planned to implement.

The proposed pay cuts were the result of a new collective bargaining agreement that followed Hostess’ entry into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in January 2012.

In interviews with former Hostess workers ”“ all Bakery Workers union members ”“ published in the Journal Tribune early last year, several said they would be interested in returning to work in the Biddeford bakery if it were to reopen, depending on the terms of employment.

Some of the nearly 400 workers who lost jobs when Hostess closed are still out of work, but many have since found jobs, including Frank Bonaventure of Cape Neddick. He was a mechanic for the company, and is now employed as calibration technician for a biomedical firm, where, he said, “I’m happy as a clam.”

Until he found his current job, Bonaventure was out of work for about six months, he said.

If another bakery company buys the facility, he said he hopes the new owners would be better than Hostess and treat their workers with more respect.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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