Michael Devaney launched the MyDemoulas website about three years ago, as a means to offer Market Basket customers a resource to learn about deals at the stores and the stores’ hours.
The act was one of service, since at the time Market Basket did not have an official website. However, it has received enough traction that Devaney can sell advertising against the site and support himself. (The company’s new management launched Market Basket’s first-ever website last week, but it now appears to be down.)
As a customer unaffiliated with the company, Devaney, whose story was told by WBUR last week, did not expect at the time he launched the site to be thrust into the middle of a family feud that has infiltrated all levels of Market Basket’s operations, from the executive ranks all the way to the employees who stock the aisles and the customers who walk them.
“I was very worried to pick a side at first,” Devaney tells Boston.com of the fight for company control that has since led to a worker revolt and customer boycott. “I just wanted to put up a circular and do my thing.”
However, since the attempted ouster of former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas last summer, through to his firing this year and the mass employee movement calling for his reinstatement, Devaney has found himself advocating for employees. Part of that, he says, is based on the support employees have received from Market Basket customers, since Market Basket customers comprise the lion’s share of his page’s visitorship.
“I’m trying to support what customers want and what employees need,” Devaney says. “I can’t just sit there and deny what’s happening and try to put a circular out,” he adds.
As WBUR reported, Devaney receives a significant amount of email from people who think his site is the official Market Basket website, even though his site features disclaimers saying it is not affiliated with the site. In recent weeks, much of that email has been less than pleasant, he says, criticizing the company’s direction and urging the reinstatement of Arthur T. Demoulas. Ironically, Devaney says, that has served as evidence for what customers want—and a reason to adopt more of an active position in the ongoing conflict.
As a loyal customer himself, Devaney also has a stake in the fight. Specifically, he says he fears what Market Basket could become if the company were to be sold to an outside party.
“I don’t want to see it sold off,” he says. “It’s a local institution around here.”
Devaney’s actions have him monitoring social media from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed, he says, sending messages that are supportive of workers and Arthur T. Demoulas. He has also recently added a “Live News” section to his website, curating Tweets into a stream of the latest information available.
He’s not out there holding signs. But as a once-disconnected consumer trying to help other customers find out stores’ hours, his loyalties in the conflict are clear.
As for what comes next, Devaney, who says he’s considering looking for employment, says it depends on what happens next. With the high-stakes drama moving in new directions every day, he says he’s already feeling pressure he never expected when he launched the site out of his Candia, N.H. home. “Right now, it’s really stressful,” he says.