Check Out the Smiles: At Market Basket in Claremont, Everyone’s Happy Dispute Is Over
Ann Herrick of Springfield, Vt. reflects the mood at Market Basket in Claremont as happy customers returned to the store. 8-30-2014 Medora Hebert
Finally, the perishables are back in the store. Dairy clerk Rob Allison stocks the shelves at Market Basket. He said he was very very happy to be back. 8-30-2014 Medora Hebert
It was hugs and smiles all around at Market Basket in Claremont. Shoppers were happy to be back shopping at the store. Store manager Arthur Parliman of Claremont and shopper Sandra Woodward of Canaan exchange hugs. 8-30-2014 Medora Hebert
Claremont — Business was brisk midday Saturday at the Market Basket supermarket in Claremont, a welcome departure from the last six weeks, when a boycott by many employees created supply shortages at the New England chain’s 71 locations.
“I’m ecstatic,” Claremont store manager Arthur Parliman said. “We’re all very happy.”
The trouble for Market Basket began in June, when the company’s board of directors fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, at the urging of his cousin, Arthus S. Demoulas. Soon afterward, many employees of the company, who supported Arthur T., went on strike, leaving many stores significantly understocked.
Parliman said his store remained open during the boycott but did not have any perishable items that must be trucked in daily — produce, meats and dairy products.
The dispute ended Aug. 27 when Arthur T. purchased the majority of the company for $1.5 billion. As workers have returned, Market Basket’s stores have scrambled to re-stock their shelves.
As workers scurried throughout the store on Saturday afternoon, Parliman said the store had 70 percent of its normal inventory. By next week, he expects the store to be fully stocked.
The Claremont store employs about 300 people. Parliman said he was forced to tell his more than 200 part-time employees not to come in during the boycott because of low customer demand.
But despite this, Parliman said, there was no discord between employees and management at the store — everyone wanted Arthur T. back at the helm of the company.
“We all banded together,” Parliman said. “We were all for one cause, and that was to bring our ex-CEO back.”
There was evidence of that support at the store Saturday — posters bearing the likeness of Arther T. Demoulas occupied the front windows.
Parliman said it is difficult to calculate how much business the Claremont store lost during the boycott. He said he hopes sales will recover quickly, owing to a loyal customer base.
“There’s a lot of older generation roots up in this area, compared to the city stores down in Massachusetts,” Parliman said, adding that the budgets of shoppers in Claremont are “a lot loss than people in more populated areas.”
Shoppers at the store said they are glad the dispute has ended.
“I’m very happy that they’ve come to an agreement and the store is back open,” said Paul Herrick of Springfield, Vt. “It’s important that we have this option because it is lower-priced than just about anywhere.” Herrick said he and his wife, Ann, chose not to shop at Market Basket during the boycott in solidarity with workers. He said customers who joined the boycott helped the employees gain the upper hand.
“I think it put pressure on the management team,” Herrick said. “The people did make a difference.”
“We really wanted to support the employees,” his wife added.
Doreen Scott, also of Springfield, said she didn’t shop at Market Basket during the boycott because she didn’t know what items would be on the shelves. She said Arthur T. Demoulas’ ouster and subsequent boycott were bad for the company, its employees and its customers.
“It was really disappointing, and I’m saddened about the bickering,” Scott said. “I have felt that Market Basket has been a hugely successful store.”
Scott, who has shopped at Market Basket since moving to the area 17 years ago, said she likes that the company hires people with disabilities, and it is committed to keeping prices low.
Joan Swenson, of Newport, said she was disappointed that an upper-level management dispute hurt both customers and employees, and she was glad Arthur T. Demoulas was back in charge.
“Families shouldn’t fight the way these two families did,” Swenson said. (Arthur T.) “did very well for this company.” Swenson said she has shopped at Market Basket for 20 years because she likes the prices and large selection. She said she’s unsure if the Demoulas family dispute has done permanent damage to the company.
“I just hope people come back,” Swenson said.
Mary Carpenter, of Unity, agreed that the boycott could have been avoided. “I don’t think it ever should have happened,” Carpenter said. “Families should stick together.
Carpenter said she continued to shop during the boycott, but the shelves were mostly empty. In just the past week, she said, she’s seen a remarkable turnaround.
“It’s looking better now, and I’ve never seen so many happy faces,” Carpenter said.