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August 27. 2014 1:17PM

Reports: Market Basket doomsday plan would shutter 61 of 71 stores if deal not struck soon


An empty shopping carrige in a nearly empty parking lot at the Hooksett Market Basket on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

The roller-coaster known as Market Basket entered a new phase with reports swirling Wednesday that the supermarket's board of directors discussed a contingency plan to shutter 61 of the chain's 71 stores if an agreement isn't reached soon to sell the company.

“Knowing the board, they'll probably throw darts at a map of Market Basket stores and see where it lands,” Peter Gulezian, store director at the Manchester store, said, acknowledging the sarcasm.

He said the standoff — which started in mid-July with picketing workers and boycotting customers — has left workers feeling “awful,” not knowing what will happen to them or their stores, about 30 in all, in New Hampshire.

“Everyone is sick to their stomachs,” Gulezian said. “I can't believe every day we wake up and we hear something different. It seems to be getting worse and worse.”

Workers are holding out for the company's ousted CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, to return to power. His side of the family is working to purchase a controlling interest in the chain from another faction of the family headed by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

New Hampshire stores report cash register receipts are off as much as 98 percent from normal.

At the busiest Market Basket store in New Hampshire, the one on South Broadway in Salem, store director Brian Casassa wondered how company executives might decide which stores to keep open.

“I don't know how they would pick and choose, whether it be whether we own the property or lease the property or what they'd use to for criteria, if there's multiple stores in the same town.”

The way things have been going, he said, perhaps top executives will take an empty soda bottle and spin it on a desk to decide the fate of individual stores and those who work there.

But all joking aside, Casassa said: “There's 25,000 people (Market Basket workers) who just want their lives to get back to normal.”




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