A walk through the Market Basket in Sagamore shows the effect of the current controversy that has hit the retail grocer. The firing of the company’s popular CEO Arthur T. Demoulas last month has led to employee protests, workers walking off the job, more firings, the shutdown of distribution centers, and ultimately, empty store shelves.
Market Basket has 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. At the Sagamore store, kindling wood filled a display case where potatoes are typically stacked because the store was sold out and getting no more deliveries. Other produce shelves, including apples and lettuce were half filled. Shelving units in the store’s back rooms, usually loaded to the ceiling with cartons of food, were empty.
Penny A. Knochel of Wareham left the Sagamore store yesterday evening full of praise for the company, and sorry to hear of the turmoil that has enveloped her favorite grocer. Ms. Knochel said that she typically shops at the Market Basket in New Bedford, but she happened to be in Bourne Monday.
“It’s a great store. Everyone’s nice. We love the store, we don’t shop anywhere else,” she said.
Ms. Knochel said the value and the customer service she gets at Market Basket keep her coming back.
“You get good value for what you buy. It’s a great company, you can’t beat it,” she said.
More than a dozen employees protested outside the Sagamore store yesterday, July 21, holding up signs in support of Mr. Demoulas and asking shoppers to sign a petition calling for his return.
A rally yesterday outside the company’s headquarters in Tewksbury drew thousands of employees and supporters, all calling for Mr. Demoulas to be reinstated. He was ousted on June 23 by the company’s board of directors, which has been loyal to Mr. Demoulas’s cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. A family feud between the two has waged for decades.
In a company statement issued on July 21, the company said that eight employees were fired over the weekend because “their actions continued to harm the company, negatively impacted customers, and inhibited associates’ ability to perform their jobs.”
Sagamore store manager Paul Quigley called the situation “a terrible predicament” and said that the company has become “dysfunctional.”
Mr. Quigley took issue with the firing of Mr. Demoulas and the other employees, noting that they have a combined 200 years of experience with Market Basket. He said that his hope is the company’s board of directors will “do the right thing and bring the company back to what it was before.” The right thing, in his estimation, would be to reinstate Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO.
“It’s hurting customers, it’s hurting employees, it’s hurting vendors. It’s not the way we [Market Basket] operate,” he said.
State representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich) left the Sagamore store yesterday evening after shopping, getting a first-hand look at what is going on there, and talking to protestors. Mr. Hunt said that he does not believe it to be his role as a legislator to get involved in the business of a private company. He admitted, however, that he understood some of his fellow legislators signing petitions or attending rallies supporting the ousted company head. Bradley H. Jones Jr. (R-North Reading), the minority leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, signed a petition circulated among state legislators, Mr. Hunt said.
He also said that, personally, he understood the position of the employees who want Arthur T. Demoulas reinstated.
“The Arthur that got displaced is the one that people hold dear and he was the one that was responsible for making Market Basket what it is,” he said.