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August 26. 2014 9:12PM

Market Basket: Waiting for a deal to be finalized for Arthur T to buy controlling stake


Fran Raudonis of Francestown checks expiration dates on egg cartons marked half-off at the Market Basket in Bedford on Tuesday. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER)

Workers threw out 350 dozen eggs Tuesday at the year-old Market Basket store in Bedford, where overall sales are down 94 percent.

Dozens more egg cartons remained on store shelves with red stickers offering half-off prices.

“Almost all of these are going to end up in the trash,” dairy manager Matt Chapman said. More than 1,000 dozen other eggs already have been donated to a food bank, he said.

Despite optimism expressed by the governors of New Hampshire and Massachusetts last Friday, the supermarket chain has announced no deal for ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas to buy a controlling stake in the company. A board meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday was called off, according to a Market Basket spokesperson.

“It feels like we’re a big convenience store,” Bedford assistant store director Chris Bielecki said, explaining many people come to buy only a handful of items each. “I don’t know how they can afford to keep these stores open.”

Managers gave about 20 part-timers more scheduled hours toward the end of this week,“hoping this would be settled,” Bielecki said.

But with no word, “everyone’s on edge,” he said of the store workers.

“People are just scared; people are worried,” he said. “The best thing about this job was the job security and now, it’s not there.”

Workers at the chain’s 71 stores, including about 30 in New Hampshire, have picketed stores for more than a month; most customers are shopping elsewhere until the situation is resolved.

In Portsmouth, more than 350 part-time workers remain without their jobs.

“We only have one single part-timer that was on a normal schedule who’s in here working,” Woodbury Avenue assistant store manager Jerry Paquette said Tuesday.

Across town at the Market Basket on Lafayette Road, assistant manager Michael Desmond said he hadn’t had any of the 147 part-timers at his store return either.

“None,” Desmond said. “All that’s left are the full-timers and the managers ... It’s (been) the same thing for the past five weeks.”

Both store managers used the same word when asked what the days were like at their eerily empty stores.

“Long,” Paquette said. “Very long days, and it makes it even longer when you’re just sitting here waiting, waiting to hear.”

Tyler White, head clerk at the Lafayette Road store, said tasks had been done and done again as the employee-supported customer boycott continued.

“We’ve painted, we’ve cleaned and we’ve organized everything,” White said.

In Bedford, Bielecki said an announced deal wouldn’t see all the store’s former customers return immediately.

“I don’t think we’d get 100 percent back right away,” he said. “It’ll take some time.”

Restocking produce warehouses and getting fruits and vegetables to stores could take a week, Bielecki said.

Customer Koreen Grieco said she stayed away from the Bedford store for about four weeks, but her food budget “was blown by a couple hundred dollars” during that span.

Customer Angela Sessa of Goffstown said she came in because her child was sick and the Bedford store was the closest to home.

“I feel so guilty coming through the door,” she said.

Fran Raudonis of Francestown called the egg price cut “awesome,” figuring her family will devour the eggs in about a day.

She hopes the supermarket standoff ends soon.

“It’s gone on too long,” she said.

mcousineau@unionleader.commlawrence@newstote.com



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