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July 24. 2014 1:56PM

Manchester Market Basket workers hope solution near as shelves empty


A sign explains why produce is missing from shelves at Market Basket on Elm Street in Manchester on Thursday. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER)


Cashier Amy Daley checks out a customer at Market Basket on Elm Street in Manchester on Thursday. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Market Basket workers said Thursday they hope the company’s board of directors accepts an offer from the family faction including ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas to buy a controlling stake of the supermarket chain and end a widespread customer boycott.

Casey Belanger, an assistant manger at the Elm Street store in Manchester, said that would mean stores could return to normal.

“It’s not nice to come in to work and there’s nobody,” Belanger said. “We want our customers back.”

Belanger said only three cashier lanes were open Thursday morning, compared to 16 normally.

Market Basket employees from around New England plan another large rally Friday in Tewksbury, Mass., before the company’s board meets in Boston later that day.

The company co-CEOs “need to leave their positions and get Arthur T. back and get things back to normal,” said Manchester store manager Peter Gulezian. “It might take a week or two.”

Workers are urging customers to boycott the stores until Arthur T. Demoulas is returned to power after he was ousted in a family dispute.

A statement released late Wednesday said the former CEO’s side wants to buy the remaining company shares.

“The Arthur T. Demoulas side of the family has made an offer to buy the 50.5% of shares in Demoulas Market Basket Supermarkets we do not own,” the statement said. “We believe that our offer is a very full and fair one and should meet or exceed a seller’s expectations of the value of the company.”

Gulezian, whose Market Basket tenure dates back to his days as a part-time bagger in 1984, said employee absenteeism is normal this week, with employees picketing along Elm Street during their off hours.

At the Manchester store, customers couldn’t buy a pork chop or chicken breast Thursday but still could find a gallon of milk, lamb chops or a carton of ice cream.

Many dry-good items, including toilet paper, pasta, cereal and soda remained for sale.

“The shelves are holding up well because there’s nobody in here to purchase (the items on) them,” Gulezian said.

He said business Wednesday was down probably 70 percent.

“Today, it’s probably going to be worse,” Gulezian said, noting some people aren’t aware of the company dispute or have no cars and must shop at the downtown store.

An employee even was making fresh pizzas because the ingredients were delivered from an outside vendor, he said.

Gulezian said the store hadn’t received shipments of produce and meat for a week. Some meat on sale Thursday came from store coolers.

Edline Edouard of Manchester, who didn’t know about the company infighting, found shopping frustrating.

“It’s annoying,” she said. “Can’t find anything.”



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