After weeks of protests, customer concerns and negotiations, Arthur T. Demoulas has purchased majority control of the Market Basket chain and the reaction in Westford’s two Market Basket locations shortly after the announcement has been nothing less than unadulterated joy.
Signs recommending that customers shop elsewhere have been taken down, replaced by new signs thanking the customers for their sacrifice and reassuring them that everything will be made right once again.
Westford Valley Marketplace Market Basket Store Director Paul Gauthier has been with the company for 44 years. But no day during his career compares to this one.
“The customers are thrilled, they’re so excited. The customers should feel that this is all because of them. They can replace me and they can replace the employees, but they can’t replace the customers,” he said. “We hoped (this day) would happen. I thought it might, but we had our ups and downs. It was a rollercoaster ride.”
There on Littleton Road, those customers like Westford resident Judy Bibbo were glad to be back after weeks of shopping at Hannaford on Drum Hill in Chelmsford, heading to the Littleton Road location after heading to the South Nashua Market Basket for items she thought might be out of stock in Westford.
“I felt bad for the people who worked (at Hannaford), because they just got hammered,” she said. “Don’t yell at the 16-year-old grocery clerk. He did nothing wrong.”
Bibbo said that it cost approximately $20 extra per week heading to Hannaford. But in the end, it was all worth it.
“This is amazing, it’s just amazing. The little guy won. They stuck together and they won,” said Bibbo. “Who thought people would be so emotional about a supermarket.”
Meanwhile at the newer Cornerstone Square location, the scene was largely the same, customers slowly returning and things getting back to normal.
Store manager David Daigle hopes that by Sunday, things can be what they were like before the beginning of the struggle, but the sense of elation in the air was still palpable after the announcement.
“It’s an overwhelming feeling. We all knew it would happen, we just didn’t know when it would happen,” said Daigle. “The customers are ecstatic. Thanking us, happy to be back. And it’s the customers that made this happen. Next is putting things back together, bringing things back to normalcy.”
Like Bibbo, many Cornerstone shoppers on Thursday morning like Nadine Roberts had also boycotted by going to Hannaford, where she also saw fellow customers in a poor mood.
But on this day, Roberts had a full cart of groceries and a sense of satisfaction.
“I’m very excited they’re all back. There’s only one more leg to the journey, which is getting customers back to the stores. It was difficult going to other stores, but it was worth it,” she said. “I think a lot of things were more expensive, but I was willing to do it because Market Basket belongs to Arthur T. for sure.”
All that remains now is bringing things back to normal. Many shelves of perishable items are still bare, but there’s also a human cost for people like Chris Cook, a part-time employee who had gotten temporary hours at the Drum Hill Hannaford.
He said that over there they had temporary employees coming in from New York State, and that some of the part-timers are being asked to stay at Hannaford.
It’s unclear what his future will be, but he’s excited the standoff is over.
“It was a very different experience over there, I felt like an outsider, the Market Basket kid among all the Hannaford employees,” he said. “I may stay there for awhile, but I’m trying to work out coming back on Saturday mornings here.”