LONDONDERRY — Derry resident Jeffrey Young, 74, just wanted to get some sugar for his morning coffee.
His trip to Market Basket Wednesday morning turned out a whole lot sweeter than he could have imagined.
Young joined a crowd of enthusiastic shoppers and employees who welcomed CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and Gov. Maggie Hassan.
"Someone told me Arthur T. was coming," Young said while awaiting his arrival. "I called my wife and said I don't know when I'll be home."
It would be quite a while.
Demoulas pulled up in front of the assembled crowd and Hassan stepped out of the passenger side door.
The crowd erupted, chanting, "Artie T., Artie T."
The celebration was a little delayed, but the two weeks that passed since the boycott ended did nothing to diminish the excitement.
Employees returned to work, customers to their stores Aug. 28, after Arthur S. agreed to sell the company to Arthur T.
That ended weeks of a customer boycott, part-time workers losing all their hours and the company's daily loss of millions of dollars.
But that was after the feud between Arthur T. and his cousin, Arthur S., boiled over into store aisles and consumers' kitchen cupboards.
First, workers rebelled against Arthur T. being fired as CEO in late June. Customers followed, by the tens of thousands, emptying parking lots and cash drawers at the chain's 71 stores in short order.
Arthur T.'s appearance in Londonderry Wednesday was akin to the arrival of a fairly well-known rock star. Hassan's visit was appreciated, too, but he was the focus.
Market Basket workers, many in their distinctive store jackets, some with hairnets, all with smiles, clustered around the pumpkin display outside the store to welcome the man they say is the heart of the company, the one who knows their names, their families — and cares.
There was another Demoulas in the crowd — eldest sister Frances, who spent three hours at the store last week, greeting and thanking workers and shoppers.
"We're back to 95 percent," Arthur T. said to cheers.
He credited the chain's 25,000 employees, its loyal vendors and astonishingly loyal customers for the quick recovery.
In 1964, he said, his father had the foresight to put a store in Salem. Today, New Hampshire has 28 stores and, he implied, there will be more to come.
Hassan called Market Basket a New England and New Hampshire institution. She said what happened this summer was about everyone coming together to make the company stronger.
She had a role in the resolution. She and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick met with the feuding cousins in an effort to get the company back on its feet.
But Hassan was out front in urging company shareholders and directors to settle the fight and get people back to work, shoppers back behind their carts.
"Your efforts were a heartening display of what's possible when people come together," Hassan said.
Last week, Hassan signed Senate Bill 215, authorizing benefit corporations. B Corps, as they're commonly referred to, consider social responsibility as well as profit. They are dedicated to all stakeholders and consider the greater community's welfare in decision-making.
"Market Basket has been a model of that philosophy before the term benefit corporation even existed," she said. "That's what led to this incredible story, this incredible summer."
The "incredible" story put customers smack dab in the middle of the mess. Most honored the boycott request and took their business elsewhere, all the while bemoaning the higher cost, the poorer selection, the unfamiliar aisles.
Londonderry residents Pat Becker and Janice Gatchell were shopping yesterday, unaware of the celebration they were walking into.
While Arthur T. and Hassan huddled with store manager Mark Lemieux in the dairy aisle, the two women said they were excited to be back.
A lot of other people are, too. Lemieux said sales last week were at 106 percent, meaning not only had regular customers returned, but the store was attracting new shoppers.
That was all music to the ears of George Copadis, commissioner of N.H. Employment Security.
"We ended up with 1,507 claims and paid out $160,000," he said of unemployment benefits for laid-off workers. "Thankfully, they found resolution, thanks to the governors' efforts. ... Hats off to both."
It could have been a lot worse, he said, with about 9,000 New Hampshire residents employed by the chain.
It took Arthur T. and Hassan about an hour to make their way through the store, stopping every few feet to shake hands, hug, and thank workers and shoppers.
Frances Demoulas quietly did the same outside the hub of the entourage.
"We had no right to expect this kind of loyalty," she said.
Derry mom Roberta Viens was doing her "regular" shopping when Frances Demoulas stopped to shake her hand and thank her.
Viens said 4-year-old Anthony, one of her four children, is "dying to meet Artie T."
The young boy wanted to know why the family had stopped shopping at their regular store this summer and was fascinated with the boycott, she said.
"He's overjoyed," she said.
So was assistant meat manager Gary DeRevere.
Business Wednesday was a far cry from the empty meat cases of a couple of weeks ago.
"Business has been phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal," DeRevere said.
He said Arthur T.'s visit was "electrifying."
It was pretty exciting for his mom and stepdad, Gordon and Lee Bakie of Kingston. They were at the store at about 7 a.m., anticipating the party in the aisles.
Gordon Bakie said he's been a Market Basket customer for 40 years, a number that matches the tenure of many employees.
Workers' name tags include their years of services and many count decades of employment.
But whether a part-time bagger or Lemieux with nearly 40 years on the job, excitement and relief were evident on all faces Wednesday.
It's all about the culture, Arthur T. said, something Lemieux repeatedly said through the long, tough summer.
That culture, according to Arthur T., is about "respect, dignity, loyalty" in a company "that strives to reward all stakeholders."
The reward for many Wednesday was simple — fully stocked shelves, a chance to shake Arthur T.'s hand and, once again, getting "More for Your Dollar."