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Market Basket community waits and watches

Union Leader Correspondent

July 29. 2014 8:13PM
Fred Greene, of Manchester, continues to shop at the Elm Street Market Basket but has to get some essentials at Hannafords. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)

Workers at Market Basket stores around New Hampshire are remaining hopeful as they wait for word from the company’s board of directors on Arthur T. Demoulas’ offer to buy out rival family members who own a controlling interest in the grocery store chain.

“Everyone is being positive and optimistic,” said Paul Beach, a manager at the store in Warner. “We’re just waiting and focusing on the little things that can still be done around here.”

An emergency meeting of the board was held Monday night, but no decisions were reached. Board members were reported to be back at the table on Tuesday, trying to hammer out a deal or solution that will end the 12-day stalemate.

The board has said it will evaluate Arthur T. Demoulas’ offer of a buyout and advise the shareholders, the nine members of the sharply divided Demoulas family who will make the final call.

“Despite reports to the contrary, Arthur T. Demoulas is but one of several potential buyers for the company who continue to express a strong interest in purchasing the company,” a company spokesman said Tuesday. “While Mr. Demoulas’ offer provides a path toward solving many of the problems he has helped to create, it is but one alternative among the options the board is reviewing.

“The board will continue to evaluate all of the alternatives and ultimately make its recommendation to shareholders. However, the board has no authority or right to force shareholders to accept an offer as that decision rests solely with the company’s shareholders.”

Workers are continuing to picket their stores demanding that Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired in June, be reinstated as CEO of the company. Warehouse workers and delivery truck drivers have stayed off the job, leaving store shelves empty and customers reluctantly heading elsewhere to shop at competing grocery stores.

“We haven’t heard anything yet, but I’m very confident that things are going to work out,” said Dan Salois a manager at the Plaistow store.

Salois said stores may get a telephone call, but information will also be posted at one of the websites that have become information clearinghouses for the chain’s 25,000 employees and an estimated 2 million regular customers.

On Tuesday, the “We Are Market Basket” website posted messages asking workers and the public to continue to speak up and let the board know what’s at stake.

“This board is not taking this matter urgently enough and the utmost pressure needs to be applied so that a resolution can be reached TODAY!” read one message on the site.

“We’re all hopeful,” said Allen Pelletier a manager at one of the Seabrook stores. “The support for the public has been amazing,” he said. “I think the big thing now is that people have had enough of corporate greed.”

Like Salois and many other managers and associates, Pelletier has signed a petition saying that he will resign if Arthur T. Demoulas is not reinstated, or if the business is sold to another buyer.

“I can kind of afford it, and kind of not,” said Pelletier who added his wife is pregnant and the baby is due in November. Still, despite his 17 years with Market Basket, and his growing family, Pelletier is remaining resolute.

“If I had a family problem that was causing trouble for 2 million people, I don’t think I would be able to sleep at night,” he said.

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