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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On cusp of deadline to return to work, faithful Market Basket store manager considers his own fate

HUDSON – As the deadline for employees to return to work arrived, Dan Desfosses, the store director at Hudson’s Market Basket and long-time worker, wondered about his own future with the company.

Desfosses worked at several of the chain’s stores during the past 35 years, working his way up the ladder. It started as a part-time job but turned into a career. ...

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HUDSON – As the deadline for employees to return to work arrived, Dan Desfosses, the store director at Hudson’s Market Basket and long-time worker, wondered about his own future with the company.

Desfosses worked at several of the chain’s stores during the past 35 years, working his way up the ladder. It started as a part-time job but turned into a career.

“I did the grand opening here in June of 1980. I was a part-time boy,” he said. “I was hired at the south Nashua store for this grand opening. The very first day, I was in the back room all day traying up beans for a sale we had that day.”

Now, he’s worried about how things will play out since the company’s executives said they will begin looking for replacement workers for certain positions, potentially including his.

“It’s been a terrific career with a wonderful company,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s been unbelievable. It’s a little disturbing they’re advertising for store directors and assistants, and they haven’t even dismissed us yet.”

Desfosses remembers being 17 and working in the pet food aisle at the
Hudson store. His parents had moved to Florida, and he decided to stay in Nashua, securing an apartment and continuing to work at Market Basket.

“I remember Mr. Marsden came in.. … He was one of the vice presidents that got fired,” Desfosses said. “He came in. He walked the store. He looked up my aisle. He said, ‘Hey Danny, come up here for a minute I want to introduce myself.’ ”

He was impressed by how Marsden took the time to walk the store, talk to employees and watched them work.

“About 10 minutes later, he called me at the top of the aisle and said, ‘Danny, c’mon up here, I want to buy you a cup of coffee,’ ” Desfosses said. “I didn’t even drink coffee. I took it black. I never had a cup in my life. It was amazing, something I’ll never forget.”

Marsden talked to Desfosses about his future and asked him about where he was living.

“I told him I had an apartment and my parents moved to Florida. He told me I had a bright future with this company,” Desfosses said.

Thirty-four years later, Desfosses says he remembers the conversation like it was yesterday.

“There aren’t too many vice presidents or CEOs out there who would take the time out of their day to talk to a 17-year-old kid,” he said. “Here I am, still with the company, hanging from a thread.”

Outside along Lowell Road picketers waved signs at motorists that read “Market Basket for Artie T,” “MB #33 supports Artie T,” and “We are MB strong.” Some drove by without giving them any notice. Some drivers beeped their horns. Picketers say a few times a day a driver will flash them a thumbs down and less often a middle finger up.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him taking interest in me,” Desfosses said of Marsden. “He brought me along. I brought other people along. … That’s how this company is. Nobody understands.

Desfosses said he doesn’t know if the company’s plans to hire new workers is meant as a scare tactic.

“I only know what I read,” he said. “They put out a full page ad for job fairs. They’re looking to hire many positions, but the one that stood out to me was store directors and assistant store directors.”

“I’m still employed; I haven’t left. I haven’t walked out, and I haven’t abandoned my position, and they want to hire to replace me. It’s a little unsettling after 34 years,” he said.

Desfosses said he has been out to Lowell Road where the picketers are.

“On my own time, I’ve been out there to see how my people are doing,” he said.

He said he’s been surprised by the support of customers.

“It’s nothing I would ever, ever dreamed of,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

Desfosses remains confident in Artie T. Demoulas and, if he did return to lead the employees, there would be no change in how the business operates, including the benefits that are an important component to employees’ compensation.

“It’ll never happen,” Desfosses said. “Not with that man in charge. Never. I have all the faith in the world in that man.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).