MANCHESTER — While some bare spots remained on Market Basket shelves Friday, there was no shortage of customers.
Two days after the ownership deadlock broke with a long-awaited deal reached late Wednesday, employees were busy in Manchester keeping up with the truckloads of products needed to restock shelves that had been empty for weeks.
“The customers have been so happy,” said Peter Gulezian, store director at the Market Basket on Elm Street.
“The joy that they’re coming in with, they’re walking in the door, hugging people ... high-fiving people. It’s unbelievable.”
A sign near the front of the store thanked customers in large, bold print for their support over the last six weeks, taking their business elsewhere as employees rallied to have Arthur T. Demoulas restored at the helm of the New England grocery chain,
The customer boycott led to empty shelves and hardly any business until word spread Wednesday night that the company board of directors had agreed to a deal giving Demoulas a controlling share in the business.
On Thursday, the cars started filling the parking lots that stood almost empty for weeks. Lots were full again on Friday as were the loading docks.
“One driver told me ‘I never thought I’d see the day when I was so happy to be in my truck,” Gulezian said.
A load of chicken that arrived earlier in the day was being wrapped and priced behind the empty meat coolers. John Meletis, meat manager at the downtown store, said shoppers have not complained about the limited selection.
“I think the customers really understand we’re still working our way back,” Meletis said. “They’ve been unbelievably receptive to what’s going on.”
Business was also bustling at the Hooksett store off of Interstate-93. The first loads of produce arrived in the morning and filled much of the department with fresh fruits and vegetables. Parts were still noticeably vacant, but the limited selection didn’t seem to bother shoppers in the slightest.
Brian Paquin, a mechanic from Nashua, stood outside the Hooksett store as his aunt stocked up for a weekend family gathering on Lake Winnipesaukee, said he took part in the boycott and was thrilled about the outcome.
“I just felt like they needed the support. I knew too many good people who worked for them and there’s too many good stories about Arthur T.,” he said. “You can’t get over how much support they got. They stuck it out. It’s a mind-blowing thing, and I’m just so happy for everybody there.” Inside, the aisles were full of shoppers who kept registers at the front of the store busy.
“We saw more cars in the first couple of hours than we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. It’s pretty amazing,” said Bill Marsden, an assistant grocery manager at the store. “Every day it’s getting bigger and bigger. Customers are coming in, they’re giving everybody hugs.”
At the loading dock, receiver Keith Andrew said the vast storage area was maybe half full Friday afternoon. He estimated it would not take long until the shelves were fully stocked and the back area filled with its usual stockpile of goods.
“It’s been like night and day. It’s been so different the last two days,” Andrew said. “Knowing us, next week we’ll be all set.”