The new Market Basket in Revere looks like a dream for food shoppers. There’s plenty of parking, the aisles are clean, and the lighted sign outside beckons customers along Route 60. Everything about it would make you think it was a successful location.
Except it isn’t open.
Despite finishing construction nearly one year ago, parent company Demoulas Super Markets has yet to open the Revere Market Basket. Their explanation? There hasn’t been one. A similar story is playing out in Attleboro, where the supermarket chain’s developer finished construction on a new building that remains unoccupied.
In both cases, Market Basket had a developer come in to get the required appeals, permits and permissions from the communities to build the facilities. Once done, the supermarket chain was to lease each property from the developer. It’s a process the company employed for many of its current locations across Massachusetts. But in Revere and Attleboro, that process has stalled.
Now the mayors of both cities are pushing back against the supermarket chain known for both its customer loyalty and its crippling internal politics.
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo said trying to speak with anyone at Market Basket has been frustrating.
“They have been extremely difficult,” he said. “While the Board and President at Demoulas continued their decades-long feud, the people in our community wonder whether the jobs and commitments they made will be honored.”
Rizzo wrote to the company on May 5, demanding an explanation and the immediate opening of the store. In the letter, Rizzo warned Market Basket that the city would explore legal options if the company continued to mothball the finished-but-unopened building.
Rizzo’s May 5 letter read in part:
I am now confronted with the consequences of my decision in relying on the economic viability and potential of Market Basket. The signs in the area advertising Market Basket at its highly visible location on one of the busiest roadways in the city are daily reminders of the new supermarket that is not open for business.
In addition, the Revere City Council has grown impatient and is now requesting me to provide information regarding a definitive opening date. Like me, they too view the behavior of this organization as one that has not been consistent with the positive image and reputation that has been built over decades. I would appreciate a response. In addition, I am turning this matter over to the City Solicitor to explore whatever legal options may be at our disposal in order to rectify the situation we unfortunately find ourselves in at present.
Rizzo’s letter went unanswered until he vented his concerns to the Revere Journal on May 20. On May 21, Keith Cowan, chairman of the Market Basket Board of Directors, wrote to Rizzo, explaining that the body had voted to sign the lease in Revere on April 28.
But as of July 8, the doors in Revere remained locked.
“They’re basically thumbing their noses at us. It’s bizarre,” said Rizzo. “It’s hard for me to comprehend that. I can’t appreciate that.”
In Attleboro, Mayor Kevin Dumas has had a similar experience.
“I had sent a letter to the Board of Directors back on June 6, expressing our frustration and asking them to have the store opened,” said Dumas, who added that he never received a reply to his correspondence.
Dumas said Attleboro is not considering legal options at this time, but is frustrated because of the time the city’s boards and officials put into helping Market Basket build out the site to its specifications.
“We’ve gone through and been very supportive in the necessary zoning changes that were required in order to go through and have them modify the existing plaza,” he said. “It’s frustrating because the building has been finished.”
In the June 6 letter, Dumas warned the Market Basket board that the months-long delay was hurting the brand’s reputation both in the city and with public officials across the state:
I ask that you commence hiring presently and open the South Attleboro Market Basket in a matter of weeks, not months. You must do the hard work to regain the confidence of this office and me as the District 5 Representative to the Massachusetts Mayors Association, as well as the impacted city departments who are also fielding hundreds of calls in the face of their own busy schedules. Importantly, you need to put a stop to the emerging loss of faith in Market Basket and its survival and growth prospects here in Attleboro and statewide.
Market Basket Chairman Cowan declined to speak with Boston.com about the two locations.
“They are matters to be addressed by new management directly with the parties of interest in Revere and Attleboro,” Cowan wrote in an email.
Just last month, the company’s board, led by Arthur S. Demoulas fired his cousin, CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, in the latest salvo of a multi-generational war between factions of the Demoulas family. The ousted Arthur T. had made the deal with developer David Sweetzer to build the Revere location. In the days following the ouster, several other members of management resigned and hundreds of workers rallied outside of the Chelsea Market Basket in support of their sacked leader.
In his May 21 letter to Rizzo, Cowan seemed to blame the delay on Arthur T., citing “a number of deficiencies with the transaction, namely with certain deed restrictions, site accessibility, and the appropriateness of allocations of certain fees, charges and benefits.” He said the site would open “subject to those certain lease clarifications and with [Demoulas Super Markets] management’s assumed participation.”
Both mayors said they hoped the change in management at Market Basket would break the log jam.
“I want them to call me and say, ‘Mr. Mayor, plan a ribbon cutting. We’re opening the store on such and such date,’” said Rizzo.