BIDDEFORD — On Friday at 1 p.m., Arthur T. Demoulas and his family became the proud owners of the entire Market Basket supermarket chain.

Arthur T. and family purchased 50.5 percent of the Demoulas Supermarkets Inc. for an undisclosed sum. The family already owned 49.5 percent of the company; it now owns all 100 percent of the business.

The sale arose out of a disagreement between two factions of the Demoulas family that took about six weeks to resolve, from the end of June through the end of August. Arthur T. was forced to resign, and in response, hundreds or workers went on strike, in solidarity with their beloved CEO.

During that time, sales were at an all-time low.

Now, officials say the company is doing better than ever.

“Sales and customer counts have been higher than last year,” according to a statement released by the company.

That’s also true for the Biddeford store, said Micum McIntire, manager of the only Market Basket store in Maine. Sales are “better than last year at this time,” he said.

In addition to increased sales, three new stores opened in the past six weeks, bringing the total to 73, and more are in the works.

New stores mean more jobs; 1,300 new jobs have been created, according to the statement.

McIntire said he not only brought back employees that had been laid off during the summer, but has hired more people, bringing the total Market Basket employee count in Biddeford to nearly 400.

The New England grocery giant has come a long way from its start when Greek immigrants Athanasios “Arthur” Demoulas and his wife, Efrosini, opened Demoulas Market in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1917.

But this summer, it was in dire straits when there was employee work stoppage and customer boycott of the Tewksbury, Massachusetts-based company’s stores.

Management staff and warehouse workers walked off the job after the company’s board of directors terminated Arthur T. as the Demoulas Supermarket CEO and replaced him with two co-CEOs.

This action was sparked by a long-time feud between cousins Arthur T. Demoulas and Arthur S. Demoulas and their respective families.

In 1954, Arthur T.’s father Telemachus “Mike” Demoulas, and Arthur S.’s father, George Demoulas, who were brothers, purchased the Lowell store from their parents and began expanding the business. Within 15 years, they had 15 stores.

In 1971, George Demoulas died. In 1991, his widow and family sued Mike Demoulas alleging they had been defrauded of their shares in the company. As a result, George Demoulas’ family was awarded a 50.5 percent share of the company.

Since then, there have been many legal battles between the two sides of the family.

On June 23, the board of directors that was controlled by Arthur S. and his family, fired Arthur T. and two other top executives.

On July 18, a major rally by more than 5,000 employees and customers at the company’s Tewksbury headquarters was held.

Over the next several weeks, more rallies took place. A slow down of warehouse deliveries left many stores with empty shelves. Employees at the New England stores asked customers to boycott the business until Arthur T. regained control, and patrons complied.

The strategy worked.

On Aug. 27, the shareholders reached a deal to sell the remaining 50.5 percent of the store to Arthur T. and his family ­”“ the deal that was completed Friday.

McIntire said he and the employees are thrilled the acquisition is done.

“We’re dancing in the streets,” he joked.

Since the agreement to sell the company to Arthur T. and his family was reached, the customer response has been great, said McIntire.

“We have a lot of repeat customers,” he said. In addition, “every day, I talk to somebody new.”

The new customers, said McIntire “are blown away about the prices and customer service.”

He credits Market Basket’s loyal customers with making it possible for Arthur T. and family to be able to reach the deal to control the company.

“Had they not reacted like they did,” McIntire said, there would have been a different outcome.

Market Basket stores are located in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and the single Maine location in Biddeford.

McIntire said he’s not sure if the chain will expand in Maine, but he said when the Biddeford store opened, the intent was to open more stores in the state.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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