Two and a half years ago, Paul Hatziiliades’ Extra Virgin Foods, based in Watertown, struck up a major deal to supply Greek delicacies to the Market Basket supermarket chain.
"We do most of their Greek olives. We do Greek feta cheese. We do roasted peppers," Hatziiliades explained in an interview Wednesday.
Now, though, it’s more accurate to say Extra Virgin "did" act as a supplier for Market Basket, as Hatziiliades has wound up his contract with the company and stopped supplying food. Like the thousands of shoppers not shopping and workers not working, Hatziiliades is now a vendor not vending to show support for ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and protest the replacement CEOs, Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch.
"This new management team is really imploding the company. It's really just a matter of time. It was a very easy decision for me," Hatziiliades said, describing their behavior as out of keeping with the culture "Artie T" had created in his decades running the 71-store chain. "One threat after another, escalation of threats, firings, threats of firings … that didn't fit with the company culture. That didn't fit with what we wanted to be part of."
Hatzilliades has apparently a good deal of company. Along with reports that many unnamed companies won’t do business anymore with Demoulas Supermarkets Inc., the parent company of Market Basket, because of disarray in their accounts payable and distribution operations, Boston Sword & Tuna went public with a lengthy explanation of why it’s giving up its business supplying up to 60,000 pounds of fish weekly to Market Basket. Banana and grocery distributor Yell-O-Glow of Chelsea, Mass., has also said it’s deliberately cut ties with Market Basket because of its unhappiness with Arthur T. Demoulas’s June 23 firing and the chaos that has engulfed the company since.
Even if many of the 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine are now ghost towns with empty shelves and customers either boycotting on principle or staying away because key areas like meat and produce and some grocery aisles are empty, taking yourself out of a $4-billion-a-year chain still hurts.
"I’m down about $200,000 so far – and why have I risked that? There’s a reason for that," Hatziiliades said. Referring to Arthur T. and several top-level executives ousted by Gooch and Thornton, he said, "These are phenomenal people. They do business with class, and they treat you like a person."
Haziiliades is confident, though, his boycott is one more source of pressure that will bring back Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO – and make Market Basket a company he’s willing to be a business partner with again.
"The old management team, I feel absolutely confident," Hatziiliades said, "is coming back this week."
With videographer John E. Stuart