Temporarily Out of Stock: Upper Valley Store Feels Effect Of Market Basket’s Family Feud
Brenner Cole, 7, left, and his sister MacKenzie, 12, both of Gastonia, N.C., shop with their mother Melissa Cole and their grandmother Susan Campbell of Charlestown, N.H., at the Market Basket in Claremont, N.H. on July 21, 2014. The family ultimately decided to finish their shopping elsewhere due to the lack of stock. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Many of the produce shelves are bare due to a stoppage of produce deliveries at the Market Basket in Claremont, N.H. on July 21, 2014. Their last delivery was on Thursday and don't know when they will resume. The store does have a solid supply of bananas because they come from a different supplier. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Marie Chastenay, left, and Pat Young, both of Claremont, N.H., put their groceries into Young's car at the Market Basket in Claremont on July 21, 2014. Young takes Chastenay shopping once a month, but normally does her own shopping on Fridays. They didn't have trouble finding what they needed. "On Friday we might not get what we need," said Young. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont — Empty produce shelves and a sparse selection of yogurt, meat and other perishable items forced loyal Market Basket customers to shop elsewhere on Monday, as the reverberations from an intra-family feud at corporate headquarters was felt throughout the region.
In Claremont, Assistant Store Director Glen Martin couldn’t tell customers when the shelves would again display the normal array of goods.
“I don’t have an answer for you,” Martin told a puzzled customer looking for blueberries in the cleaned-out produce section of the Washington Street store on Monday. “It is a shame.”
Martin, who has worked for Market Basket for 32 years, characterized the fight for control of the supermarket chain as “awful.”
Former Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was fired last month by a board of directors controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. Both are grandsons of the chain’s founder, and the animosity dates back decades.
Many employees and customers alike are supporting Arthur T. Demoulas and are pleading for him to be reinstated.
In protest, employees — some of whom were fired recently after skipping work to attend a rally in support of the ousted cousin — aren’t making deliveries from shuttered warehouses, leaving the store shelves with holes.
“It is difficult to walk around and to see bare shelves,” Martin, who started working at the Claremont store shortly after it opened in 1994, said. “But there is nothing in my power that I can do.”
The infighting hasn’t yet turned away all devoted Upper Valley Market Basket customers though, who said they choose to shop at the stores off Interstate 89 in Warner, N.H., and in Claremont because of the consistently low prices.
“Their prices are reasonable compared to some of these other places,” Jennifer Stowell, of Proctorsville, Vt., said while loading groceries into her car outside of the Claremont Market Basket on Monday. “But the place is getting emptier and emptier by the minute.”
Stowell called the feud “a crying shame,” saying it is a matter of “family members that can’t get along.
“I think it has to do with greed,” Stowell, who has shopped at Market Basket for 30-40 years, said. “The Demoulas family who is fighting Arthur T. thinks he is spending too much money and they want more of it for themselves.”
Others, too, felt the impact of the bare shelves on Monday.
“There ain’t nothing in there,” Henry Rounds, of Rockingham, Vt., said outside the Claremont Market Basket on Monday.
He and his wife were forced to proceed down the road to a neighboring supermarket.
“We only got about half of what we needed,” Rounds said.
Martin, the assistant store director, said the last shipment of goods from the three Market Basket warehouses in Massachusetts arrived in Claremont on Thursday. He said he doesn’t know when the next trucks from the company’s grocery, perishable and produce warehouses will arrive.
“We just got an email that we won’t be getting any produce loads until further notice,” Martin, who was visibly distressed, said.
Vendors are still delivering to the store, meaning products including milk, eggs, bread and bananas will continue to be stocked, Martin said.
A similar situation is occurring at the Warner, N.H., Market Basket, which also hasn’t received a shipment since Thursday. Not a berry nor a leaf of lettuce was in sight in the store Sunday night.
Though foot traffic in the door is still strong, Warner Store Manager Mike Ciaraldi said the store’s inventory is “dwindling,” adding “we are basically out of produce, chicken and seafood.
“I think it is sad,” Ciaraldi, a 38-year employee, said of the corporate battle. “This is not how we built this company. It is a disgrace that we have to go through all of this.”
Overall, the mood in the store has been somber, he said.
“There is a lot of uncertainty. People are worried. Employees are worried,” Ciaraldi said. “A lot of people have invested a lot of time. This company has been very successful.”
In an open letter to its customers published Saturday in The Boston Globe, Market Basket’s new co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch apologized to shoppers.
“We recognize that transitions aren’t always easy and appreciate that this has been an emotional time for many associates,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, in response to the recent management changes, some have lost sight of the top priority — taking care of you — and instead have engaged in actions that harm Market Basket’s reputation and prevent us from meeting our obligations to you.”
According to a New York Times article, Market Basket leadership was planning a conference call on Monday to discuss the situation. The outcome of that conference call was not made public Monday night.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan issued a statement on Monday concerning the evolving situation at the supermarket chain, which has 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
“It is heartening to see just how much the workers of Market Basket value the company and respect its past, present and future,” Hassan wrote. “Their demonstrations reinforce the strong bond that the company has developed with its employees through decades of fair treatment, support and respect ... I encourage Market Basket leadership to continue in that spirit by listening to their employees’ concerns and seeking to quickly address the situation with a focus on keeping their dedicated workers employed and reducing the impact on customers.”
While Assistant Produce Manager Amber Johnson, an eight-year Claremont Market Basket employee, said she attended an employee rally within the past year — one of a series of events calling for the reinstatement of the former chief — she said she would no longer attend the rallies.
Johnson said she is tired of being in the dark about when the next truck will come.
“We are about customer service and the customers aren’t happy anymore,” Johnson, whose department is taking the biggest hit, said.
Others, too, said it is time to end the gridlock.
“The family needs to straighten out their own life so the general public can continue to buy their goods,” Vicki Sargent, of Charlestown, said as she surveyed the empty lettuce dispensers at the Claremont store. “They are hurting themselves.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.