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Competitors, customers feel the impact of dispute in Bedford

Union Leader Correspondent

July 22. 2014 7:33PM
The parking lot of the Market Basket store at 539 Donald St. in Bedford was practically empty on Monday afternoon, as shelves were quickly emptying inside the store and many employees of the supermarket chain go (Cassidy Swanson/Union Leader Correspondent)

BEDFORD — For the Jenkins Road Hannaford location, Market Basket’s loss has been a windfall.

The Scarborough, Maine-based supermarket — which fought the opening of Market Basket in Bedford in 2013 — has had significantly more shoppers than Market Basket this week.

Allison Gnaegy of Bedford was shopping at Hannaford on Monday. She said she spoke with an employee who said that, on Sunday, Hannaford’s sales were $19,000 higher than the store usually sees on Sundays.

“I don’t think people have enough brand loyalty to Market Basket to stay with it during all this,” Gnaegy said, who said she only shops at Market Basket for certain items. “I think people go because it’s cheap. They don’t really go for the people they see there or anything.”

Signs of the turmoil going on within DeMoulas Super Markets Inc. were evident on Monday, with near-empty produce shelves and a sparsely populated parking lot at the Market Basket store at 539 Donald St. — and business booming at the Hannaford store at 4 Jenkins Road, off Route 101.

Since the board of directors of the Tewksbury, Mass.-based grocery chain ousted longtime president and Chief Executive Officer Arthur T. DeMoulas almost a month ago, tensions have been mounting among Market Basket employees and loyal customers. On Monday, thousands of supporters of Arthur T. protested outside the company’s headquarters on Monday, demanding his reinstatement as president.

The Bedford Market Basket store at 539 Donald St. is the newest in New Hampshire, built under a large expansion of the chain by the deposed CEO.

Arthur T.’s ouster was the culmination of the most recent round of infighting between Arthur T. and cousin Arthur S. Demoulas, who gained control of Market Basket’s board last year. They are sons of two brothers: Arthur T. is the son of the late Telemachus “Mike” Demoulas, and Arthur S. the son of the late George DeMoulas. Mike and George bought the company from their parents, Athanasios “Arthur” and Efrosini “Ephrosine” DeMoulas, in 1954.

Marvin Lapine, of Bedford was shopping at Market Basket on Monday afternoon. He considers himself a loyal customer and does not plan to cease shopping at Market Basket.

“We’ve been shopping at Market Basket for a long, long, long time,” Lapine said. “We always made it a point, because they have a better selection, and their prices are more reasonable.”

However, Lapine said, he is disheartened by what is happening within the company.

“I think it’s greed,” he said. “It’s sad that people can be so money-hungry, because that’s what it boils down to.”

Lapine said spoke to several employees about the situation while he was shopping.

“They’re like, ‘Well, I don’t know what’s going to happen,’” he said. “Of course, they can’t really say too much.”

He also expressed his disappointment that the company had fired eight employees, several of whom were managers, on Sunday for organizing Monday’s protest.

“If you’re trying to run an organization, you don’t start cutting all the people who’ve been working for you for years and years and years, because they decide to voice an opinion,” Lapine said. “That’s kind of a sad thing.”

Market Basket shopper Corinne Bryson of Goffstown also said she was disappointed by the current state of affairs of the company.

“I just think they should get the guy back, honestly,” Bryson said, referring to Arthur T.

However, Bryson said, she’s still a loyal Market Basket shopper.

“I’d probably still come until they’re completely [out of products I need],” she said.

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