WARNER — The public family battle over control of the Market Basket grocery store chain is taking a toll on this small town, as the store’s managers say they have had to lay off 150 people, almost all of whom are local.
But what’s more troubling to many in town is the effect the battle has had on the Aubuchon Hardware store that shares the building in the Market Basket Plaza.
With the workers’ protests at the store and with customers purposely staying away from the Market Basket store in support, Aubuchon has seen its business tumble.
The store’s manager, Steve Monett, said he’s had to lay off two people, and will likely lay off a third person — or cut 40 more hours from the remaining four full-timers’ salaries — by next week if the Market Basket battle is not resolved.
Monett hasn’t calculated the amount of business he has lost, but it’s clear when entering the once-busy plaza that both stores aren’t ghosts of their previous selves.
“No one is shopping there, and when that store stopped, everything slowed way down for us,” he said. “Now it’s coming down to how many people I can have working here.”
In this community of 2,700 people, the reaction to day-to-day developments among Demoulas family members is growing tiresome.
“Our friends and neighbors are losing their jobs,” said Sherry Thomas, a town resident and former director of the Warner Foliage Festival. “The ripple effect has traveled far from the corporate headquarters in Tewksbury and the big Market Basket stores in more populated areas.”
Residents have been supporting the store employees’ “Arthur T” movement, which favors the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas to the company’s top management.
Even Kathleen Fifield, one of the remaining employees at the Aubuchon store who knows she may lose her job next week, supports “Arthur T.”“The people who work in (Market Basket) are like our brothers and sisters. They support him. We do, too,” she said.“We support him, we live in this town, but we have hard choices to make,” Monett said. “It’s hard to believe that a family would set upon themselves the destruction of their own company, and I wonder if they realize it’s affecting other companies too.”
In the store’s nearly empty aisles on Tuesday, the managers still on the job said they feel for the workers at Aubuchon.
“We are in full support of Arthur T., but this situation is getting really frustrating, we feel terrible about what’s happening next-door,” said Nancy David, an assistant manager at the Market Basket store.
Residents don’t know what to do next. “We are committed to supporting our Market Basket workers, we are big on shopping local and not supporting these big box stores, but we now have to drive to Concord, New London or Hillsborough to shop at a major grocery alternative,” Thomas said. “It’s a dichotomy we all are trying to deal with.”
Beyond this week or next, whatever the outcome of the Demoulas battle, Monett worries the damage may be irreversible.
“In the retail business, you have to worry when you lose so many shoppers, it’s hard to say you can get them all back again someday,” he said.