April 04. 2013 10:10PM

Bedford Market Basket opening delayed

Union Leader Correspondent

BEDFORD - The harsh winter is why the new Market Basket on Route 114 won't be opening as soon as had been anticipated, according to a company spokesman.

"This was a tough one," said David McLean, operations manager for Demoulas Supermarkets Inc., owner of the Market Basket chain. "Mother Nature really dealt us a blow, so some of the exterior work slowed down because of all the snow we encountered."

McLean said while the interior of the supermarket is complete, exterior work such as topcoat paving of the parking lot, curbing and finishing touches on the landscaping and some siding work have had to wait until the better weather arrives.

"I don't have a precise date, but hopefully within a month or so we'll be open," McLean said. "We look forward to serving our Bedford customers soon."

The company had hoped to open the Bedford store this month. Bedford's development director, Rick Sawyer, said none of the necessary inspections have been completed at the site, something that must be done before the store can open.

McLean said store employees have been training for several weeks at other Market Basket locations, specifically in Manchester and Hooksett. The Bedford store will employ "somewhere in the neighborhood of 300" people, he said, adding that figure is a conservative estimate. "We don't want to over hire," McLean said. "After the grand opening and things settle down a little bit, if we need to hire more people we will. But we want to make sure the people we've hired get to work the hours they hoped they would work."

The Bedford store will be the 30th Market Basket in New Hampshire. Demoulas has 69 Market Basket stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. McLean said the company is in the process of building five more supermarkets.

The Bedford store will be the first Market Basket to feature what McLean described as a full-service "gourmet fresh meat case." The Bedford store will also come with a Market's Kitchen, common to newer Market Baskets, which serves, among other items, rotisserie chickens, submarine sandwiches, salads and pre-made family sized meals.

In 2011, competitor Hannaford Brothers sued the Bedford Zoning Board in an effort to block construction of the new Market Basket, alleging the board improperly granted Demoulas a variance to build its 78,500-square-foot building, which sits on the site of the former Golfland miniature golf course and Slammers Sports Bar and Grill. Hannaford argued that in 2008 the zoning board limited its newest supermarket on Route 101 to 40,000 square feet even though it too was located in a commercial zone. The town has said issues with the land at the Route 101 location limited the size of Hannaford Bros. store.

Last year, a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge ruled in Market Basket's favor, saying that Hannaford was not an abutter and therefore had no legal standing to challenge the zoning board's decision to grant the variance. The Hannaford Route 101 store is located about 3 miles west of the Market Basket store on Route 114. Hannaford appealed the court's decision to the state Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the case late last year. No ruling has yet come down from the court.

Sawyer said Market Basket has posted a bond in the event that Hannaford prevails in the suit. The bond, he said, would be used to raze the new building and bring the lot back to the condition it was in before construction began.

Hannaford has also sued the town over a March town meeting vote at which residents approved a zoning change for the site of the new Market Basket from mixed use to commercial 2, which has no footprint restrictions. That case is scheduled to be heard in July.