Barely two days after a deal was announced that returned control of Market Basket to its former president, Arthur T. Demoulas, the chain’s employees and vendors said the chain was recovering at a rapid pace.
In stores large and small, directors said a steady stream of trucks were already delivering produce and dairy products. Some of them were receiving enough meat to fill their coolers, or at least make a respectable showing in time for Labor Day cookouts.
“We’re getting nothing but full trailers, which is awesome,” said Bob Cahee, the manager of the store in Woburn. “We took six weeks to tear it down. It’ll take us six days to rebuild it.”
“The perishables are starting to roll in now. We’ve got chicken,” said Steve Dunn, the manager of the store in Bellingham, one of the chain’s larger locations. Three trucks full of dry goods arrived Friday, Dunn said, with three truckloads of produce set to arrive over the weekend.
Andy Lien, a director of the perishable warehouse in Andover, said most stores received partial shipments of beef, chicken, seafood, and produce on Friday.
Some shipments were delivered directly to the stores from suppliers. Lien’s side of the warehouse, which ships all perishable foods except produce, sent out 80 trucks. In normal operations, he sends out about 110 trucks each day.
Even Market Basket’s more distant locations were receiving perishable goods. Kevin Brosseau, the manager of one of two Market Basket locations in Fitchburg, said his store had received chicken, some beef, and a variety of produce, including lettuce, tomatoes, corn, and watermelon. He estimated his produce selection would be 70 percent or 80 percent full by Monday.
At the chain’s northernmost store in Biddeford, Maine, manager Micum McIntire said shelves were filling back up.
“Honestly, it’s remarkable how much product I have here, and the number of staff I have. This is like a regular day.” he said. “I have fish on shelf, I just got produce, and I just got a load of chicken. I’m back in business.”
Although customer flows were a little below half of their typical Friday volumes in most stores, store directors said an upbeat attitude prevailed. Online, excited shoppers posted pictures of muffins from store bakeries, cakes decorated with thank-you messages, and employees stocking dairy products. In stores, old customers approached employees for hugs, and new ones said hello.
To welcome the new crowds of customers to his Biddeford store, McIntire said he occasionally picked up his phone to make announcements over the store’s public address speakers.
“I’m not trying to sell them anything,” he said. “I’m just saying, ‘Thanks for supporting us, welcome back. Let us show you how it’s done.’”
At some stores, managers said they would soon be hiring. Although most part-time employees have returned to their jobs, a small fraction found other jobs or haven’t yet been reached. Many young part-timers have simply gone back to school. Dunn, the manager of the store in Bellingham, said he had received 60 to 100 applications from high school students to go through next week.
“I like to build up the 14- and 15-year-olds,” he said. “It’s sort of a farm system.”
Vendors also expressed surprise at the store’s quick turnaround. Paul Hatziiliades, whose company supplies Greek foods to Market Basket, said he received an extra-large supply order by fax at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, less than 12 hours after the deal was announced. He wasn’t expecting an order until the weekend, or even Monday.
At Pleasant Valley Gardens in Methuen, the race is on to deliver flowers and produce to Market Basket stores in dire need of inventory. Every available part-time worker has been called in to help, said company president Richard Bonanno, but all hands are not enough.
“I can’t get both done at once, so you gotta triage what you can get done first,” he said.
For Bonanno’s crew, that means mums — six acres of blossoms grouped in thousands by color — which Pleasant Valley grows in pots for fast loading. Five truckloads went straight to Market Basket stores in Middleton, Danvers, Rowley, Newburyport, and Haverhill Friday morning. Another 22 are scheduled to go out this weekend, for a total of 10,000 mums.
While the trucks are en route, workers will be harvesting squash, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. Vegetable deliveries from Pleasant Valley will likely reach the Market Basket warehouse on Monday, Bonanno said.