Market Basket to open first of five new stores
Just a few short months ago, Market Basket was in crisis. A power struggle prompted employees to urge customers to boycott stores, many shelves were empty of fresh food, and the interim management was considering shutting down much of the multibillion-dollar company.
Now, not only has the chain returned to normal operation, but it's also resumed the break-neck pace that has made Market Basket such a striking success in the supermarket industry. Sales are up strongly, and the company is poised to open five new stores over the next several months and hire more than 1,000 employees.
"Everything seems to be on track," said Kevin Griffin, a grocery industry analyst, who estimated that sales across the chain are up 10 percent over the previous year. "The biggest challenge was trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again."
In late August, Arthur T. Demoulas reached a $1.6 billion deal to buy the half of the family company held by his cousins, who had removed him as president earlier in the summer. The deal capped an extraordinary two-month period in which managers and rank-and-file employees loyal to Demoulas launched a work stoppage that paralyzed the 73-store chain.
The first of the new stores, which opens Sunday in Revere, had long been finished but sat dormant during the battle for control of the company between rival factions of the Demoulas family. The company has hired 475 workers for that one store alone.
After Revere, the next store scheduled to open is a small supermarket in Littleton in early November, followed by a 90,000-square-foot Market Basket in Waltham in December. Stores in Attleboro and Athol will open in early 2015.
"Business has been healthy," said Market Basket operations manager David McLean. "Things have been very positive. Our focus has been to replenish the stores, which we worked basically around the clock to do."
At company headquarters in Tewskbury, McLean said Arthur T. Demoulas "looks forward to concluding the deal" that gave him and his sisters full control of the company. McLean declined to comment on the status of Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch, the chain's cochief executives who were brought in by Demoulas's cousin, and have remained in their positions during the transition.
Several vendors that provide Market Basket with fresh foods were back to normal business levels, or had even grown. Fred Nader, whose company, Modern Amusement, has kiddie rides and gumball machines outside nearly all Market Basket stores, said the stores reopened just in time to save him from laying off his own son.
On Friday, the Revere store was stuffed nearly to capacity, with just the coolers for fresh fish and meat awaiting stocking over the weekend; one employee busied himself rotating ketchup bottles to have their labels face the aisle.
Store manager Ron Lambert has lost eight pounds getting ready — this is the fourth in the chain that he's opened. On a tour he showed off the store's sampling booth and an in-store cafe that he boasts can cook "100 chickens in 100 minutes."
At one point Lambert shooed away some of a small group of curious passersby who had wandered inside.
"Domingo," he told them, "Sunday! Sunday!"