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Market Basket woes add up to part-time workers finding jobs elsewhere

Sunday News Correspondent

August 09. 2014 10:08PM
Grocery manager Dan Cloutier, right, and head cashier Jay Houle, center, splash icy water on former Market Basket employee Ben Marshall on Friday at the supermarket's Epping location. Marshall said he had worked for the chain for two years. The icy splash was part of a fundraising campaign for Market Basket warehouse workers and truck drivers, who have been off the job for weeks. (Mike Lawrence/Sunday News Correspondent)

EPPING - Many part-time workers at a Market Basket here who saw their schedules either drastically reduced or cut entirely last Thursday didn't go far to find new jobs.

They just walked to other businesses in the Brickyard Square Shopping Center, near the intersection of routes 125 and 101.

"Today, I interviewed three young girls who got laid off yesterday," Christine Prina said Friday at 900 Degrees Wood Fired Pizzeria, which is diagonally across the lot from the supermarket that anchors the shopping center.

"This is Brickyard Square, but if you ask anybody, it's Market Basket plaza - ­nobody from around here calls it Brickyard Square," said Prina, a Nottingham resident and general manager at the pizzeria.

Prina called the ongoing turmoil at the supermarket chain sad and tragic, and said she's brought food to workers holding signs and waving at drivers in front of the shopping center. But she acknowledged a benefit for her business, which opened about nine months ago.

"It's working for us. They have good employees they're laying off," she said.

Cut-back vs. layoff

While Market Basket co-CEO Felicia Thornton said Thursday the ordered payroll cuts shouldn't be considered layoffs, that word could be seen on workers' signs and heard in conversations all around the Epping plaza Friday.

"Just yesterday, when all the part-time workers were laid off, we had four or five people come in here immediately and fill out applications," said Missy Hewson, front house manager at Popovers at Brickyard Square, a café and bakery.

Hewson said she's lived in nearby Fremont for about 10 years, and remembers when Market Basket launched the Brickyard Square center just a few years ago.

"They were the first here - it was a big thing when Market Basket was opening," Hewson said. "The grand opening was unbelievable."

Hewson said Popovers opened in the plaza in August 2013. It's the second location of a company whose flagship café and bakery is in Portsmouth. She said the loss of Market Basket shoppers has hurt her business a little bit around lunchtime, but overall has been "not horribly negative." She said the most noticeable change is the lack of Market Basket employees coming to Popovers on their breaks. She said one such gentleman used to come in for lunch every day.

"He hasn't been in for a couple of weeks," Hewson said, before indicating he'd joined the people rallying in front of the shopping center. "He's busy over there, understandably so."

Noticeable change

Prina, at 900 Degrees, said she's noticed an impact from the empty parking spaces in front of Market Basket.

"It's definitely having an affect on the plaza, and the traffic we've had," she said.

Prina said her sales were down in the first two weeks of July, but with this being her first summer in business, she couldn't be sure if that was because of the Market Basket unrest or just an increased number of locals on vacation.

She said she's had to go to a Hannaford's supermarket in Raymond for supplies, rather than just walking over to Market Basket.

"I wish they'd hurry up and resolve (the dispute), so everything could return to normal around here," she said. "It's impacting everybody."

A 60-year-old woman who said Friday that she had been laid off after three years with Market Basket, but declined to give her name, said the payroll cuts affected 300 to 350 workers at the Epping location.

Paul Byron, a 15-year Market Basket employee who previously worked at a Londonderry location, nodded in agreement outside the store. Byron held a sign filled with pictures from employee rallies in support of ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

"I'm worried about where I'll find another job," said Byron, saying physical disabilities limit his opportunities.

Standing together

About 20 Market Basket supporters, including employees with newly reduced hours, friends and family members, gathered outside the Epping store Friday. They cheered loudly as a few of them sat on folding chairs and had buckets of ice water poured over their heads, as part of a fundraising campaign for Market Basket warehouse workers and truck drivers who haven't been on the job for weeks.

Hewson said effects of the labor dispute have been widespread in the community.

"You'll feel it anywhere you go in Epping, whether subtle or severe," she said.

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