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Welcome back, Market Basket

The deal reached by the competing factions of the Demoulas family last week that put Arthur T. Demoulas back in charge of the Market Basket grocery store chain is great news for the local residents who shop regularly at the company’s stores in Rindge, Milford and Swanzey. They’ll once again be able to take advantage of Market Basket’s consistently low prices, which will no doubt help those who’ve been struggling to stay within their food budgets in recent weeks.

And the agreement is especially welcome for the hundreds of employees at those stores — both the part-timers whose hours had been eliminated during the 40 days after company workers in effect shut down the operation and the full-timers who had some sleepless nights after hearing that the chain might have to close most of its stores if no agreement could be reached. They’re looking forward to getting back to business, hustling to get the stores restocked rather than standing outside with signs urging their customers to shop somewhere else.

What’s most amazing about the whole situation is that Market Basket workers, although they have no union, in effect went on strike in order to bring back Artie T. They knew they were putting their jobs on the line, but warehouse workers refused to send out food and other merchandise and store employees jumped right in, protesting outside the stores on their off-duty time and attending huge rallies in Massachusetts. All this to support an outspoken billionaire who had been fired after his longstanding battle with the other billionaires in the Demoulas family finally came to a head.

Artie T.’s philosophy of valuing the contributions of the company’s workers and paying them fairly while keeping prices low, even if it meant lower returns for the wealthy shareholders of the privately held company, obviously bought him tremendous loyalty. While we suspect many Market Basket customers had never heard of him until a few months weeks ago, he was apparently well known to the company’s workers, famous for remembering names and details about their families and for finding ways to help in times of crisis. The level of commitment that approach engendered is truly remarkable.

Artie T.’s no angel, according to accounts of his battles with the Market Basket directors. He can be outspoken and profane. But he’s built a hugely successful company, both in terms of customer satisfaction and worker loyalty. Let’s hope that in his approach to business, Artie T. can serve as a role model for other chief executives of companies both large and small.

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