LETTER: Market Basket Is More Than Just A Store
Aug 08, 2014 12:15AM ● Published by Bill Gilman
I grew up in the Merrimack Valley, birthplace of Market Basket.
I lived in a neighborhood among several working class Greek families. They were good, hard-working families. Our groceries came from DeMoulas Supermarket, which was located in Central Plaza in Haverhill, MA.
As I got older, many of my schoolmates went to work at DeMoulas as baggers and stockers. They wore shirts and ties to work under their aprons. They worked. They were expected to work. DeMoulas was a family business.
The DeMoulas family was a hard-working Greek family. I didn’t work at DeMoulas when I was in high school. I got a job at a popular restaurant downtown. Like DeMoulas, this restaurant was owned and operated by a hard-working Greek family. Two brothers worked 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week. They worked hard and their employees worked hard. They expected their employees to work hard.
Both of these families worked hard. They were also good. They treated their employees well. I also remember another local family business, Benedetti's Deli. They were (and still are) the home of the Rocket, a huge and very reasonably priced grinder. The rockets were (and still are) made on fresh rolls that were baked across the street at Fantini Bakery. Coincidentally, Fantini is another family business. I grew up and went away to school.
While in school, and for a few years after, I lived in western Massachusetts. Somewhere along the line, DeMoulas became Market Basket. I lived outside of the area served by Market Basket. I was in Stop & Shop and Big Y territory. About 12 years ago, I moved north to Vermont. Upon settling in, I discovered a pleasant surprise just across the Connecticut River, in Claremont, NH. Market Basket. I moved far from my home, but a piece of home was right there, 20 minutes away. This had to be the outer most Market Basket. I make the drive to Market Basket and pass a Shaw’s, a WalMart Supercenter, and a Hannaford’s along the way. I do this because, at Market Basket, I still see baggers and stockers wearing shirts and ties and employees have name tags that show 10, 20, 30 years of service. I see employees that have made careers out of what many others would just consider jobs. Their jobs become careers because they are inspired to take pride in what they do. Their jobs become careers because they are inspired to be loyal to a company.
I see prices that are significantly lower combined with a level service that is significantly higher when compared to Market Basket’s competition. One day, while shopping at Market Basket, I discovered another pleasant surprise. Fantini grinder and bulkie rolls. They were right out in front of the deli case. A quality, local product. A quality, local product that was far and away less expensive than any of its competitors. Home again.
When I go to Market Basket, I’m back in Haverhill. Same uniforms, same floors, same chalkboards with the specials, and the same sawdust to dry up the spills in aisle 6. I remember hearing about battles within the DeMoulas family all along, but never paid much attention to it. Business does that to families sometimes. When rank and file employees, who can’t afford not to work, walk out, that says something.
Why and how could an unorganized group of people form such a solid front in opposition to anything? Why and how could an unorganized group of customers form such a solid front in opposition to anything? Social Media? No, not social media. That will help me rant and rave about things if I choose to. That will help employees vent about something they consider a raw deal.
Social media doesn’t get you off the couch to stand out and hold signs when it’s 90 degrees outside. Social media doesn’t get you to drive out of your way to shop at a competitor because you support those employees. It helps spread the idea, but it doesn’t get you out there.
A man and his principles get you out there to hold signs and drive out of your way and pay more for your groceries.
We don’t part easily with our money and spare time. A man, Arthur T. DeMoulas, and his principles inspire us to do that. A man who treats his employees as more than just employees. A man who give his employees a stake in what they do. A man who truly values his employees and inspires loyalty does that. It’s not just a grocery store.
I can’t wait to go back.