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Rindge

Market Basket drama over

Artie T. returns after workers, shoppers hold out for weeks

  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

    Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

    Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

    Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

    Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

    Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

    Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.
  • Market Basket employees and customers are happy to see the store getting back to normal service levels following the announcement of the purchase of the company's majority shared by former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

RINDGE — Let’s go to Market Basket. That was the immediate reaction of many customers of the New England chain store, upon waking up to the news that former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas is back in charge of day-to-day operations, effectively ending a six-week standoff between employees, customers and the grocery store’s corporate headquarters.

In Rindge, the morning after the announcement, customers were beginning to trickle back into the store, some for the first time in weeks, to end a boycott implemented to show their support for the employees and Arthur T. Many of them called out congratulations, or announced that they are glad to be back, as they passed the store’s employees.

Arthur T. Demoulas announced Wednesday night, via a spokeswoman, that he and his sisters have entered an agreement to purchase the majority shares owned by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, and Arthur S.’s side of the family. Reportedly, the asking price was $1.5 billion. With Arthur T.’s return, striking warehouse workers who walked out on the job six weeks ago, calling for his reinstatement, will return to work as well, according to the statement. Also returning are eight management-level employees who were fired shortly after the start of the employee protests. While the close of the sale is pending, the current co-CEOs, Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch, will remain in their positions. The sale is expected to be finalized in the next several months, at which point Arthur T. Demoulas is expected to take the reins as CEO.

Rindge Store Manager Bill Dube said Thursday he has started to contact the store’s 250 laid-off part-timers to invite them back to work, and he is expecting to be back to full staff by the end of the weekend, as customers return to the store. Dube expects grocery deliveries to return to some state of normalcy this week, including some perishables, which the store has been sorely lacking in the past few weeks. He’s also contacted local vendors who have scaled back or discontinued deliveries due to the lack of sales and has put in regular orders once again.

However, it may take between two and four weeks before the store is once again back to the full stock customers are used to while the warehouses get back on track, Dube said. The store still had no produce, meat or fish on Thursday morning, and it may take awhile to get stock back in those areas, said Dube, as warehouses have to input their own orders, receive goods, and then distribute them to stores that are as lacking inventory.

The employees

As for the employees, who have been fighting for the return of Artie T., it is a huge relief that a conclusion has been reached, especially as announcements had been made that the chain would be closing 61 of its 71 stores, if a purchase agreement was not reached.

“It was very emotional. I cried,” said Heather Norris of Jaffrey, who has been working at the Rindge Market Basket for 23 years, on Thursday. “Yesterday, when I heard they were going to be closing 61 stores, I lost hope. Then I heard the board was going to meet last night. I tried to stay up, and I didn’t make it, but this morning is was the first thing that I heard.”

Nick Babineau of Rindge, another Market Basket employee, said that he, too, wasn’t able to stay awake to hear the news in person, but woke in the middle of the night to eight celebratory messages left on his phone giving him the news. “I didn’t go back to sleep,” he said. “I’ve been away just wondering and making plans on how we’re going to get everything back up and running, and back to normal as soon as possible.”

Norris said that as the struggle dragged on, it was increasingly stressful, especially as both she and her husband are employed at Market Basket. “It was nerve-wracking. I was very afraid from day to day,” Norris said about the potential of losing her job.

Norris wasn’t the only one. Keith Boutell, who has worked at Market Basket for 10 years, said that he’d actually started to fill out some application forms, in case the Rindge store closed. “My bank accounts are already tapped, so I had to have a back-up plan,” he said on Thursday. With fewer work hours available, there was no overtime on the table, said Boutell, and that is something he has relied on to pay the bills. Now, he said, that fear of losing his job has been lifted. “I’m just happy to have our boss back, and not having to worry about what the company’s going to turn into in the next couple of years,” he said.

The customers

Jay Malboeuf of New Ipswich was shopping on Thursday morning with her daughter and grandson, who sat at the front of a cart nearly overflowing with groceries. It’s the first time any of them have stepped into a Market Basket in weeks, they said.

Malboeuf said they have been using multiple places to get their groceries in the interim, including Hannafords and a local market, but they rushed back to Market Basket upon hearing about the break of the boycott that morning.

Kathy Hebert of Ashburnham, Mass., said she had a similar reaction. She’s been shopping at Hannafords for the bare minimum of groceries since the boycott began, she said. She was fully in support of the employees during the fight to reinstate Artie T., she added, and participated in the boycott.

“I wanted to do it for them,” she said of the store’s employees.

Hebert said several Market Basket employees are frequent customers of the salon where she works, and she wanted to support their cause. She had planned to make a trip for groceries that morning, and when she turned on the news and heard that Artie T. was back in control, “I jumped right in the car,” she said with a smile. “When I pulled in, I saw a few cars and I said, ‘Good.’” At some points during the boycott, the parking lot at Market Basket has virtually been empty, noted Hebert.

Kelly Covert of Hancock said she’ll be glad to see the store getting back to normal. She noted that she has a large family to feed, and that they have an organic diet. Market Basket, she said, is the best place to go to get groceries at a reasonable price.

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