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Market Basket customers hungry for peace as resolution nears

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined forces with New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan late Sunday night to help broker a deal between ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and the company’s board of directors.

Aisles were empty at Market Basket in Chelsea Monday as tensions within the grocery chain continued into their fifth week. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro Aisles were empty at Market Basket in Chelsea Monday as tensions within the grocery chain continued into their fifth week. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

After more than a month of passionate picketing and a tedious behind-the-scenes standoff, an end to the Market Basket saga may be within reach.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick joined forces with New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan late Sunday night to help broker a deal between ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and the company’s board of directors helmed by his cousin and apparent archnemesis, Arthur S. Demoulas.

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“The parties have made real progress on the terms of the sale and operating control of the company, and the governors are encouraged that a resolution may be within reach,” Heather Nichols, a spokeswoman for Patrick, said in an email Monday.

Protests continued on Friday despite a deadline for picketing employees, who are loyal to Arthur T., to return to work or risk losing they jobs.

On Monday, as the company entered its fifth week of unrest, there were no visible sign that things were on the upswing, but shoppers and workers were hopeful.

"The regular employees are back to work, the part-timers are not," said William Caraballo, a merchandising manager at the Chelsea Market Basket. "We're just doing the best we can. Everybody is still out."

A man shops at Market Basket in Chelsea on Monday. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro A man shops at Market Basket in Chelsea on Monday. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Caraballo said customers are "devastated, and are starting to wonder what this is leading to."

Shopper Janette Benitez, of Chelsea, is one of those customers.

Benitez pushed a cart through the store's deserted aisles on Monday, and spoke of her loyalty to the chain and her disappointment with the higher-ups.

"I think that it's kind of pathetic that they're doing this back and forth thing. I think it's time they come to a deal and just settle it because the customers are the one who are suffering."

Like many Market Basket customers, Benitez said she is drawn to the store's prices and grocery selection.

"I've been to Price Right, and I don't like their food; it rots in two days. The Spanish people eat a lot of different things, and the only place you can find it is here," she said. "I just wish they'd make up their minds and settle it and stop being so immature. They need to do what they need to do, because the customers are the ones who are suffering."

As of Monday afternoon, much of the store's regular food items were nowhere to be seen, a problem that will likely only be worsened with Boston Sword & Tuna's decision to end its decade-long relationship with the embattled grocer.

The fish vendor's CEO Tim Malleyreleased a letter on Facebook Monday afternoon announcing the dissolution, which he blamed on problems with Market Basket's management.

“We think the time has nearly run out for saving this great institution and all those who depend on it," Malley said.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS

 
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