Customers boycotting Market Basket taped Hannaford receipts to the front door of the Market Basket store at Stadium Plaza in Tewksbury. See videos and a
Customers boycotting Market Basket taped Hannaford receipts to the front door of the Market Basket store at Stadium Plaza in Tewksbury. See videos and a slide show at lowellsun.com. SUN / ROBERT MILLS

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LOWELL -- Protesting employees and customers outside Market Basket stores in Lowell, Tewksbury and Chelmsford dismissed a conciliatory statement released by the chain's new leaders on Tuesday, despite a request that they try to be open-minded.

Felicia Thornton and James Gooch, the co-CEOs who replaced ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, released a statement asking employees to give them a chance to earn trust and focus on the needs of customers.

But even customers, like Jo Sturtevant and Alex Herndon of Lowell, dismissed the statement as they stood outside the Bridge Street store in Lowell.

Former Market Basket customers Alex Herndon and Jo Sturtevant, of Lowell, join employees Tuesday outside the Bridge Street store in Lowell protesting the
Former Market Basket customers Alex Herndon and Jo Sturtevant, of Lowell, join employees Tuesday outside the Bridge Street store in Lowell protesting the removal of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO. SUN / Robert Mills

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The statement referenced comments made by Arthur T. Demoulas on Monday in which Demoulas said the company's success was due to dedicated and impassioned associates.

Thornton and Gooch agreed, saying the company's success has indeed been the result of thousands of employees.

The statement also defended a decision to fire some front-office employees who had taken part in protests demanding Demoulas' return. Arthur T. Demoulas had asked that those employees be given their jobs back.

"We understand the strain and emotion facing Market Basket associates. We know and understand that trust and acceptance are earned and cannot be demanded or imposed," the co-CEOs said.


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"We are committed to earning the trust and acceptance of our associates and Market Basket's customers and hope that our associates will judge us not on our promises, but on our actions as we move forward."

"It's complete baloney," was Sturtevant's reaction to the statement. "They're from out of state. They know nothing about Demoulas, the employees, or the culture."

Sturtevant said she hopes Arthur T.

The parking lot was largely empty at the Chelmsford Market Basket store Tuesday afternoon. See videos and a slide show at lowellsun.com.	SUN / BOB
The parking lot was largely empty at the Chelmsford Market Basket store Tuesday afternoon. See videos and a slide show at lowellsun.com. SUN / BOB WHITAKER

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
is reinstated as CEO soon, because she knows the protests that have cripples stores and left produce and meat shelves empty has also effected Market Basket's vendors and truck drivers, in addition to store employees.

Nevertheless, Sturtevant said she will not shop at Market Basket again until demands are met, and that she would even like to see Arthur T. Demoulas' cousin and rival, Arthur S. Demoulas, removed from the board of directors.

"We will never shop here until ATD is back and until all these people have their jobs back," Sturtevant said.

Employees Stephen Pica and Conor Keilty, holding signs in Stadium Plaza in Tewksbury, were unmoved by the statement as well.

"They haven't done anything worthy of us backing them up," Pica said.

Empty shelves in the meat department at the Market Basket on Fletcher Street in Lowell Tuesday evening.SUN / Robert MillsSun staff photos can be ordered by
Empty shelves in the meat department at the Market Basket on Fletcher Street in Lowell Tuesday evening. SUN / Robert Mills

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
"As far as I see, they're just turning their backs on the company and driving it into the ground."

Keilty dismissed the plea to focus on customers, noting that customers have even driven from out of state to show support for employee protests.

Andy Heggarty, manager of the store on Bridge Street in Lowell, has worked for Market Basket for 36 years -- ever since high school -- and also dismissed the statement from Thornton and Gooch.

Asked about a possible resolution to the impasse, Heggarty said nothing short of Arthur T.'s return will do.

"We just have a passion that we've all learned from Artie T.," Heggarty said. "We are a family. We're going to rally until Artie T is back."

Heggarty said his store remains open, though business had been "terrible."

The stores at Stadium Plaza and Bridge Street had receipts from Hannaford and other supermarkets taped to the front doors by former Market Basket shoppers seeking to send a message.

In Chelmsford, a smattering of customers made their way in and out of the store on Chelmsford Street around 8:30 p.m.

One of them, Sergio Hernandez, of Lowell, a 19-year customer of the supermarket chain, was grabbing a few necessities on his way home despite the boycott. Nonetheless, he said he hopes the board of directors brings back Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO.

"They've gotta do it," he said, of the ongoing protests. "It's the right thing to do."

Inside the Chelmsford store, the manager declined comment.

Other workers, however, said business had been very slow all afternoon.

Outside the Westford Valley Marketplace store, a handful of workers shouted support for Arthur T. over a bullhorn as passing motorists honked.

Bridge Street employees were lined up outside the store holding signs, and along Bridge Street, where there was a constant cacophony of honking horns and shouting employees asking for support.

Even a Lowell police cruiser that drove by the scene briefly sounded its emergency siren, drawing howls of appreciation from employees.

A delivery driver from Romano's Pizza in Dracut dropped off 10 free pizzas for employees, donated as a show of support, and Bridge Street manager Heggarty said other nearby businesses had made similar gestures, providing ice cream, frozen yogurt and other refreshments.

No employees were protesting outside the store on Fletcher Street in Lowell, but a sign near the door expressed support for Arthur T.

Jessica Levasseur, of Lowell, was packing a load of groceries into her trunk outside the Fletcher Street store, and said she's still shopping at Market Basket despite the protests and empty shelves, but only because she has never shopped at any other grocery store.

Asked about the protests, even Levasseur agreed that Arthur T. should be reinstated.

In Tewksbury, Pica and Keilty said they think the only possible resolutions to the impasse are to bring back Arthur T. or let the company go bust.

"I, personally, am ready to get fired," Keilty said. "I'll go pump gas somewhere. I'll pick up cans for a month until I figure something out."

Pica made an equally dire prediction about the possible outcomes.

"Either they bring him back, and we work to bring things back to what they used to be, or they stick with what they're doing, continue thinking they're right, and eventually the company just goes right into the ground."

The Lowell City Council Tuesday night joined with other local politicians who have voiced support for Arthur T. Demoulas, voting to send Market Basket a letter backing him and the company's employees.

Follow Robert Mills on Twitter and Tout @Robert_Mills.