A Year After Turmoil, Market Basket Thriving

Jul 15, 2015

Credit Ella Nilsen / NHPR

It’s now been a year since operations at the supermarket chain Market Basket, a family-owned company with 75 stores across New England, came to a standstill as employees and customers rallied in support of Arthur T. Demoulas.

He was ousted as the company’s chief executive in June of 2014.

After numerous protests, Market Basket emerged from that summer in late August with Arthur T. resuming control and employees returning.

Joe Schmidt is operations supervisor for Market Basket.

He joined Morning Edition to talk about the company a year later.

Take us back to last summer. You’ve been with the company for 27 years?

It’ll be 28 this year.

You were among the executives fired during last year’s protests. What surprised you most about what happened?

The scene outside the Londonderry Market Basket last summer.
Credit NHPR / Michael Brindley

It was just really amazing to see how everybody pulled together on this, from the initial warehouse workers, the drivers, and the customers coming together to support their store. They see Market Basket as their store and their company. It’s very hard not to have really looked at this story from a little bit of distance and be a little bit taken by it; to see what really just transpired. It was a bunch of people who knew the company was going to be changed forever and they stood up for it to protect it.

Once Arthur T. gained full control of Market Basket, you and the other executives who were fired are brought back. But there were several weeks there of depleted shelves, vacant stores, a slump of $400 million in sales. How long did it take to get back to normal?

That’s another amazing part of this story. Once Mr. Demoulas came back and everybody was reinstated, within four to five days, most of the stores were in very good shape in the grocery department. The perishables were coming in, as it takes a little bit of time to get that process rolling. But to see everybody pull together to do what they did to get the company back on track in record time, it shows the teamwork mentality. It was just an incredible accomplishment.

How have sales been this past year compared to before the protests?

Very good. This year, we’re looking at approximately $4.8 billion in sales. That’s compared to around $4 billion last year. It’s just a good indicator to show that not only do we have our existing customers that have come back, but we have new customers who are shopping with us now because they wanted to see what Market Basket is all about. It’s our job to continue to show them our low-price structure and take care of them with great service from our valued associates.

The deal for Arthur T. Demoulas to acquire full control of the company came at some cost – about $1.6 billion in debt. That includes a $1 billion mortgage loan and an additional $600 million loan.

I imagine there has to be some kind of impact on a company, if not now, then down the road.

The anniversary of the protests is marked by a sign of strength at the Londonderry Market Basket.
Credit Michael Brindley for NHPR

  I think one of the things that you see is that this is the company’s debt. Everybody that works for the company has very much that mindset of we’re in this together, like we were last summer. Our objective is to look at every area of the company, continue to grow the company through the new stores that we’re looking to open, and the stores that we got online as soon as Arthur T. regained control.

Speaking of expansion, I know you’re getting ready to open the store in Rochester now. Are there other expansion plans in the works?

Yes. We will be opening the Rochester, New Hampshire store. We have a store in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We have a recently-announced store in Lynn, Massachusetts that will be ready to go probably sometime last next year. There are others beyond that. It’s a good indicator of where we’re headed and that we have a bright future ahead of us.