MANCHESTER — At least eight Market Basket supermarket chain executives were fired Sunday in what one called a “cleaning house” that marked the end to the store culture of having corporate leaders who worked their way up the ranks from front-end store jobs.
Mike Kettenbach, deli buyer at the chain’s Tewksbury, Mass., corporate headquarters, confirmed he is among eight corporate officers to receive termination notices Sunday.
“I feel I was wrongfully terminated. They didn’t really cite a reason, so I really don’t know why I was fired,” Kettenbach said by telephone Sunday night of the package delivered by courier and waiting for him when he returned home from a wake.
But Kettenbach, who started working for the grocery chain when he was 14, suspects his dismissal is related to the fact he is the nephew of the chain’s beloved former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
“He’s my uncle. So I can only assume that they, for lack of a better term, wanted to clean the office of the faction they disapprove of, as they say,” Kettenbach said.
Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted as CEO last month after years of family infighting that resulted in his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, assuming control of the board of directors.
Kettenbach said he will contest his dismissal through “any means possible.”
He is one of at least eight corporate officers from New Hampshire and Massachusetts who were fired Sunday. Kettenbach said this second round of dismissals followed an earlier rout of seven managers who either were fired or retired when Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted last month.
Market Basket management confirmed “certain individuals are no longer with the company,” Boston.com reported.
“Their actions continued to harm the company, negatively impacted customers, and inhibited associates’ ability to perform their jobs,” Market Basket said in the statement.
Company officials have said they will not eliminate employee profit-sharing or the 4 percent discount given on most store items.
The only corporate officers left are the newly installed chief executive officers Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch, Kettenbach said.
“There is no future without people. They’ve done irreparable harm to the company. I don’t see how they come back after basically executing the top 15 to 16 executives in the company,” Kettenbach said.
Others dismissed Sunday include: Tom Trainor, a grocery supervisor and former store manager; Tom Gordon, a grocery supervior; Steve Paulenka, facilities manager; Jim Lacourse, a grocery buyer; Joe Schmidt, operations supervisor; Dean Joyce, warehouse director; and Joe Garon.Trainor said he also was fired by a courier who arrived at his home.
“When I started this fight over a year ago I knew the risk but I also knew that I was fighting for something much bigger than myself. I was fighting for my MB (Market Basket) family, for Arthur T. Demoulas, a man that I have tremendous respect, loyalty and admiration for. A man that I would run through a wall for. I have no regrets. I would do it all over again and I leave the company I love with my head held high in the knowledge that there wasn’t a single thing more that I could have done,” Trainor wrote on the wearemarketbasket.com web site.
Like Kettenbach, Trainor said he will attend the rally set for 9 a.m. Monday at Market Basket in Tewksbury.
Throngs of customers signed petitions seeking Arthur T.’s reinstatement over the weekend even as they faced aisles running out of produce and other groceries after warehouse workers and drivers loyal to Arthur T. went “on strike” in support of their former leader, one Manchester store employee said.
The store hasn’t received a grocery delivery since Thursday. No fish or produce had arrived since Friday, said an employee who spoke on condition of anonymity or risk being fired. Milk and eggs, however, continue to come in daily, the employee said.“She’s getting very thin,” said Dale Barmore, a three-year employee who primarily works in the cafe.
“Our entire back store room has one-half palette left. That has just oranges” which are used for making juice to sell in the cafe, she said. “We’re not getting trucks in,” she added.
Yellow signs hung from empty produce aisles apologizing to customers for the inconvenience.
“Please pardon our appearance as we try to persuade the board of directors of Market Basket to reinstate Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of Market Basket.” the sign read.
Delivery delays are attributed to the walk-out of certified fork-lift and other heavy equipment operators as well as licensed truck drivers. They are being replaced by workers either not certified to work on heavy equipment or who lack commercial operator driving licenses, one employee said.
At least 500 customers at the Manchester store have signed a petition since noon Sunday seeking Arthur T.’s reinstatement, one employee said.
“Arthur T. is the only way to go,” Bill Myers of Goffstown said after adding his name to the petition. “The other people who want to take over, they’re just trying to line their pockets with gold ... The employees, the customers and everyone else are going to suffer."