Market Baskets in Tilton, Warner running out of produce amid companywide protests
Employees at the Tilton Market Basket spelled out their support for ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas using trays that would normally hold produce. The store has not accepted produce deliveries from the corporate warehouse, and will not until Demoulas is reinstated, according to store director Mike Leclair.
(SARAH PALERMO/ Monitor staff)
Jesse Chase of Boscawen is usually too busy for more than a quick hello if his son Brayden, 2, stops by the Tilton Market Basket seafood department. But without fresh deliveries, and with very few customers, he got to spend some quality time yesterday introducing his son to a crustacean.
(SARAH PALERMO/ Monitor staff)
Mike Leclair is a grocery store manager. He’s not a politician, and not a public speaker, he told a crowd of about a hundred employees, friends and family – and local and state media. He didn’t have a speech prepared, so instead, he spoke from the heart.
“We’ve crippled this company now, and we have probably lost some loyalty from our customers,” he said. “I want to go back to work. . . . But we can all go back to work on Monday if they do the right thing and bring back Arthur T.”
Leclair is the store director of the Tilton Market Basket, and yesterday he spent his entire day on the grassy shoulder of the road leading to his store.
His employees, friends and family were there to show support. The media were there because of a passionate post he made Tuesday night on Facebook, which, by yesterday, had received more than 11,700 “likes” and been shared more than 2,800 times.
Private security workers had parked and observed his store for several hours Tuesday and videotaped his employees as a driver dropped off a trailer of produce.
“I’m angry, I’m upset and to be blunt, I’m pissed,” he wrote. “After dealing with the hired security . . . for the last two days . . . I’m done . . . I’m not afraid anymore. I’m shutting Tilton 59 down Wednesday in every sense of the word. One cashier should be able to handle our business.”
His store was open yesterday, with a skeleton crew of about 10 workers – and yes, one cashier. The other employees spent most of their time cleaning, because most of the drivers who passed Leclair and the other protesters turned their cars around, honked their horns and left without shopping.
Charles North came from Franklin to shop, but turned around and parked on the side of the road to talk to Leclair.
“I didn’t realize I’d run into this, but once I saw the manager out here, I wasn’t going in,” he said.
He’s been shopping at the store twice a week since 2005.
“There’s just nothing like it,” he said.
But even if he had gone in, North and other customers would probably have left empty-handed. The store has no produce and little meat. The fish case is completely empty. Even the cereal shelves are half-full.
The store received two deliveries this week from the corporate warehouse, but neither has been opened and neither will be unloaded, Leclair said.
“I don’t need the product. We have no customers,” he said.
Yesterday was Day Seven of protests and a partial shutdown for Market Basket employees, who are calling on the company’s board of directors to reinstate Arthur T. Demoulas, who was removed as CEO last month.
Demoulas and his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, have battled for decades over control of the chain’s 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Arthur S. has alleged his cousin’s business practices were reckless and at the expense of shareholders.
Employees back Arthur T., because they say he’s like family – he instituted and protected industry-leading wages, generous bonuses and profit-sharing programs.
They began protesting at the company’s headquarters Friday, then brought the effort home to their local stores this week. They’re calling for the board to reinstate Arthur T. at a scheduled meeting tomorrow.
More than 40 New Hampshire state legislators have also issued a statement supporting the workers and calling on shoppers to boycott the stores until the company leaders negotiate in good faith with employees.
Until then, supplies at local stores continue to dwindle.
The Market Basket on Fort Eddy Road in Concord also has a trailer sitting out back that the manager won’t allow employees to unload, because it wasn’t delivered with the proper paperwork, said Jim Betto, assistant manager.
In Warner, there haven’t been any deliveries of perishable goods since Friday and supplies are running low, said store Director Mike Ciaraldi.
“We’re keeping the staff on anyway,” he said. “Some people have opted to go home, but we have cleaning and maintenance projects we can do, so we’re keeping everyone who wants to work working.”
“It’ll be nice when (Arthur T.) comes back,” he said. “I believe he’ll come back.”
Employees are planning an additional large protest tomorrow at a store near the corporate headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass., in advance of the board meeting.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or email@example.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)