Entenmann's, which has produced pastries in Bay Shore for more than 50 years, will close its bakery there by July, cutting 178 jobs.
"This was a difficult decision," said Rod Cunha, vice president of operations for the metro area at Entenmann's parent company, Bimbo Bakeries USA. However, he said, the plant, opened in 1961, "cannot operate efficiently on a cost competitive basis with the other bakeries in our system."
The closing will affect 178 of the plant's 265 workers as the company shifts production to other plants, Bimbo said.
Workers hugged and looked downcast after the company delivered the bitter news at a hotel in Hauppauge Thursday morning.
Managers said the production jobs will be moving to plants in Chicago and Pennsylvania, several employees said.
The employees said they expect to learn more about severance packages after the company meets with union representatives in the coming weeks. Several said they are represented by Local 3 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. A union representative did not return a call for comment.
Many workers said they had spent decades working at the plant, which turns out pastry puffs, twists and cinnamon buns, among other treats.
"Really nothing we can do," said Randy Bryant, who said he has worked for 30 years at the plant, where he mixes icing. The Central Islip father of three held the hands of two granddaughters as he left the meeting. "They're shipping everything out to different bakeries; I guess it's cheaper."
One worker who spoke on condition of anonymity said under the bakers' contract, newly hired production workers get paid $11.50 an hour, in contrast with the $19 to $20 an hour salaries that some longtime employees make at Bay Shore.
The facility, which at its peak employed 1,500 people, will continue to sell and distribute sweet treats, including discount pastries. Remaining jobs also will include research and development, technology and marketing.
Bimbo said it employs more than 1,600 people in New York State, including "hundreds" in Suffolk County.
Thursday's announcement is the latest in a decades-long series of manufacturing job losses on Long Island.
"Many companies, large and small, find it expedient to relocate where the cost of labor is cheaper," said Irwin Kellner, Port Washington-based chief economist for MarketWatch.com. The laid-off workers will be "hard-pressed" to find jobs that match their current pay, he said.
Donna Periconi, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore, said Entenmann's founding family and the company have funded charities and supplied free baked goods for local events.
The closing, she said, is "a sad moment for us."
The company was founded in 1898 in Brooklyn by William Entenmann, a German immigrant. In 1905, he opened a small store in Bay Shore, and in 1961 the company relocated to a factory there.
Bimbo Bakeries USA is the U.S. arm of Mexico's Grupo Bimbo, which calls itself one of the world's largest baking companies. Its American brands include Arnold, Boboli, Freihofer's, Sara Lee, Stroehmann and Thomas'.
It bought Entenmann's more than five years ago, as part of the $2.5 billion acquisition of the bakery's parent company, George Weston Ltd.