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Shopper at Hooksett Market Basket: 'It's gone on too long'

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 22. 2014 6:54PM
About 20 protesters line Route 3A in front of the Hooksett Market Basket on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

8/22/14--An empty shopping carrige in a nearly empty parking lot at the Hooksett Market Basket on Friday. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER

HOOKSETT — Amid a flurry of reports that Market Basket’s board would meet this weekend to consider final offers to buy the supermarket chain, the only car moving in Market Basket’s parking lot at one point Friday was a red Jeep belonging to a man teaching a teenage girl how to drive.

8/22/14--About 20 protesters, including full-time produce employee Victoria White of Hooksett, line Route 3A in front of the Hooksett Market Basket on Friday. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER

But that could be changing soon.

The governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire late Friday released a joint statement about a pending resolution to the Market Basket stalemate.

“In briefings today, all parties report that they are optimistic that an agreement will be reached to sell the company to Arthur T. Demoulas and to restore him to operating authority on an interim basis until the sale closes. Subject to reducing their agreement in principle to writing by Sunday, the Board will forestall taking adverse employment action against the employees who have abandoned their jobs. We are hopeful that employees will return to work, and the stores will reopen, early next week,” according to Gov. Maggie Hassan and Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick.

Inside the Hooksett store, the lone checkout clerk, Riley Curren of Hooksett, sat atop a row of shopping carts, waiting for a customer to show up at the store to pay for groceries.

“If a person comes through with a smaller order, it might be 10 or 15 minutes before we see a person (again),” Curren said.

Assistant Store Director Kim O’Brien said she never witnessed until recently what has become a daily occurrence: a de facto driver’s ed practice testing area in the normally bustling parking lot left empty by boycotting customers supporting store employees who want back their ousted boss. Former CEO Arthur. T. Demoulas planned to submit a final offer Friday to buy a controlling stake in the company.

Business at the Hooksett store is down 98 percent compared to normal, leaving “a lot of space to utilize for that learning,” she said. “From a managerial standpoint, I want my parking lot full (with customers) again.”

O’Brien checked in with the 29 part-time workers she normally schedules to see who plans to return if Arthur T. Demoulas retakes control.

“Seven employees have gotten jobs between Hannaford, Shaw’s and an Irving gas station, and all are coming back,” O’Brien said.

Twenty others also said they would return while one got a job at a Mercedes dealership and another worker returned to college and hasn’t responded, she said.

For the past few weeks, all 297 part-time workers at the Hooksett store got no scheduled work hours after store directors were ordered to better match payroll with their withering cash register receipts.

Meanwhile, boycotting customers have taped near the entrance their cash register receipts from competitors. Lost revenues from two customers: $59.07 spent at Wal-mart and another $63.80 given to The Fresh Market.

Most aisles at the Market Basket store just off Interstate 93 — one of about 30 Market Basket stores in New Hampshire — remained stocked with dry goods and frozen foods. The are no baked goods.

On Friday, people couldn’t order a freshly made pizza, but they could buy a frozen one. They wouldn’t find a pork chops or chicken leg but could buy ham and kielbesa.

Two customers who normally shop at the Market Basket in Somerville, Mass., were driving to the Lakes Region and stopped in Hooksett to stock up on supplies.

“I really didn’t want to come in,” said one woman, who didn’t want to give her name. “I don’t want to feed the greed, but she does.”

Her friend said she supports Arthur. T. Demoulas and wants the stores to return to normal.

“It’s gone on too long,” said the second woman, who also would not give her name.

Curren, manning the register in the absence of part-timers Friday, normally is in charge of ordering and stocking items in Aisle 5, including juices and canned vegetables. He said he won’t remain working at Market Basket if a conglomerate buys the chain.

“Personally, I would have no reason to stick around,” he said.

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