With Market Basket stores almost fully restocked, the company is aiming to open two or three of the five new stores it has under development by the end of the year, company executives said.
The grocery chain’s second-in-command said in an interview Friday that no timeline was in place for opening all of the stores, but that expansion was “on the radar.”
“Our 100 percent focus on this moment is to get these [existing] stores restocked with fresh foods, particularly perishable foods, produce, and seafoods,” said David McLean, the company’s operations manager.
In a Monday appearance at the Chelsea Market Basket reported on WCVB-TV, company president Arthur T. Demoulas said his goal was to have two or three of those stores open by the end of the year.
McLean said executives hoped to discuss expansion and firm up their plans in the next week or two. Once the company decides to open the stores, he said, hiring and training new employees would take six to eight weeks, he said.
Of five under development, one store in Revere and another in Attleboro are completely finished and lack only “people and product,” according to Steve Paulenka, a facilities and operations supervisor who organized protests during the six-week work stoppage at Market Basket. A store in Athol is nearly complete, but Paulenka said the distance of the Attleboro and Athol stores from other Market Basket locations could make staffing more difficult.
Each store would need about 400 employees, who would be trained at existing supermarkets in the chain. The closest Market Basket to both Attleboro and Athol is about 15 miles away, Paulenka said.
Demoulas said Monday that the Market Basket in Revere would probably be the first to open. That store is fully permitted and equipped, according to Tony D’Agosta, the city’s chief health inspector. The store has been complete for a year, but its opening has been bogged down by disputes between Demoulas and the company’s board of directors, controlled by his cousin and chief rival, Arthur S. Demoulas.
Despite the distance concerns, the other top candidates to open soon are the Attleboro store, which has been finished for several months, and the Athol location, which would be the chain’s westernmost. Only paving, lighting, and traffic marking work remain at the Athol store, said Tom Koistinen, who managed the store’s construction for general contractor Seppala Construction.
At two other stores, more work remains to be done. In Waltham, construction crews are moving “full steam ahead” on an 86,000-square-foot Market Basket store, said Steven Cucinatti of Retail Management and Development Inc., which will manage the plaza where the store is being built. The firm is run by Arthur T. Demoulas’s brothers-in-law. A completion date has not been set, but Paulenka said the store “could be finished this year.”
“We have a couple other tenants that are planning on opening as soon as late September, early October,” added Cucinatti. Those tenants are Marshalls, the department store, and Jake n Joes, a sports bar.
At the fifth location, in Littleton, a new Market Basket should be finished by mid-October, said Sam Park, who is developing the commercial plaza where the Market Basket will be located. Checkout counters are already in place, but crews are still installing shelving and refrigeration units, said Paulenka, who visited the store on Tuesday. Still, both Paulenka and Park said a late opening was unlikely. November and December are a hectic time for retailers and grocers, and recruiting and training hundreds of new employees could be especially difficult for Market Basket at that time of year.
“The closer we get to holidays, the less likely we are to open,” said Paulenka. “We’ve got to get the training done before the holidays or after the holidays.”