Hope for Market Basket? Milford store manager optimistic

MILFORD – With a resolution to the Market Basket crisis looking possible for the end of this week, the Milford store’s assistant manager said he is optimistic that Arthur T. Demoulas will return to lead the company.

There were only one or two customers in the store Tuesday morning, but employees continued to fill the middle aisle shelves, though the outside shelves and cases, normally filled with dairy, meat, fish and fresh baked goods, were almost empty.

On the front door there were dozens of receipts from Shaw’s and Wal-Mart supermarkets, posted by customers as a sign of solidarity with employees as they honor the boycott and protest the ouster last month of their CEO.

This week the governors of New Hampshire and Massachusetts stepped into the fray, trying to help Demoulas family members make a deal that would keep the grocery chain solvent and end the protest and consumer boycott.

Mark Sturzo, assistant manager of the Milford store and a 36-year Market Basket employee, said he is not paying much attention to news reports, but he expects to hear that Arthur T. will be involved in any settlement.

That is the only thing employees want, he said. “We’re waiting it out. We’ve got to be patient. He’ll take care of the rest. He always has.”

Company executives have reportedly agreed to hold off on firing employees or closing stores as talks continue.

But the chain, which has one store in Maine, and 70 in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, is said to be losing millions of dollars a day since the protests began in mid-July.

Arthur T. Demoulas is trying to buy the 50.5 percent of the chain owned by his cousin and rival Arthur S. Demoulas and other relatives.

In July, drivers stopped deliveries and employees began urging customers to boycott the stores until Artie T., as they call him, is reinstated.

About half of the Milford store’s 230 employees had their hours cut as corporate management cut the hours of all the chain’s part-timers early in August.

But full-time employees continue to be paid, and industry analysts say the company can not continue to operate this way much longer.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan and Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick issued statements Monday saying the Demoulas family members were making progress in resolving the dispute.

The two cousins, who have been fighting over management of the company for decades, joined the two governors in Patrick’s office in Springfield, Mass., on Sunday, along with other company representatives.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.