The Hippo


Jun 6, 2020








Rally at Market Basket headquarters in Tewksbury. Courtesy photo.

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Filmmakers are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign that ends Jan. 11. Visit for updates and to support the completion of Food Fight: Inside the Battle for Market Basket.

Market Basket Food Fight
NH filmmaker puts it on the big screen

By Kelly Sennott

With foresight, persistence and a little bit of luck, Portsmouth filmmaker Jay Childs has collected more than 70 hours of Market Basket feud footage, earning himself a reputation as the “guy who’s always there.”

Childs was on the scene before anyone else when, in June, CEO Arthur T., Vice President Joseph Rockwell and Director of Operations William Marsden were fired by the board. The big news put a twist on a story he’d already been working on.
“I had been researching the idea of doing a story like this the summer of 2013. It was going to be a somewhat different film, telling of the Demoulas family, the Market Basket business and the feud that sort of grew out of it,” Childs said during a phone interview last week. 
The feud had, after all, been in existence for years.
“But then in the fall of 2013, Arthur T. lost control of the board to Arthur S. There was a rally in Waltham at a store that was delayed at being opened,” Childs said.
He went to the rally that fall and saw all he needed to.
“When I saw the energy and support there was, I knew this had the potential to be a really big story. I decided I was all in and would follow it,” Childs said.
He and co-producer Melissa Paly spent more than 40 days filming all over New England this summer and fall, and they’re not done. Less than a week before their interviews with The Hippo, the two were interviewing MIT Sloan School of Management individuals who were very interested in unpacking the lessons to be learned at Market Basket. 
For Childs, the summer was an extreme balancing act of shooting the Market Basket feud and keeping up with his Portsmouth-based production company, JBC Communications. He’d garnered quite a few loyal sources, and it would often happen that he’d show up in his Portsmouth office in the morning only to get a text about a big Market Basket development. (Paly came into the scene later on, but she’s also working to balance this project with her company, CrossCurrent Communications.)
Childs followed the action in and around New England — lots of time was spent at the Tewksbury, Mass., headquarters, but he also shot in Portsmouth, Epping, Stratham, Manchester and Londonderry. 
“The story started from headquarters, but after a period of time, they decided to shut the warehouse down, which impacted all of the stores. They’d no longer be getting products. Then it became about the customers, the vendors,” Childs said. 
There were narratives from the big dogs, but also tales from the people who don’t make the general news, which made for beautiful documentary moments.
For example, Childs pointed to a food truck vendor extremely invested in feeding MB employees at warehouse headquarters during breakfast and lunch hours. The man, Childs said, took a personal interest in the plight and every day would say things like, “I think it’s today. We’re going to win, and we’re going to put Arthur T. back.” 
During the interview, he and Paly also talked about a Lawrence, Mass., store manager caught in the crosshairs. 
“The idea of asking customers to boycott Market Basket was in full swing,” Childs said. “But there was a public housing project across the street, and a number of people in the neighborhood had to walk into Market Basket every day to get what they needed. … He [the manager] felt an incredible obligation to provide service to these customers who literally couldn’t go anywhere else. … They’d say, ‘I’m sorry to shop here. I really support what you’re doing,’ and he’d respond with, ‘I’m here to serve you. That’s what I’m here to do.’ But you could see the conflict going on.”
The night the tentative agreement was reached, the crew arrived in Tewksbury before morning, knowing full well that if it was true, warehouse people would show up almost immediately.
“We camped out at the warehouse at 1 a.m., and sure enough, people started showing up for work at 1:30, 2 a.m.,” Childs said.
Childs and Paly are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign that will help hire a crew to edit and refine footage for the proposed feature-length documentary, Food Fight: Inside the Battle for Market Basket. They’re in the process of reaching out and securing an interview with Arthur T. and are hopeful but realistic about snagging words from Arthur S. 
Even without the great summer and fall conflict, elements for a great story were there. 
“You have this really longstanding family business that was colorful and troubled on the inside, yet so successful on the outside,” Paly said. “It was still a very interesting story of a business being pulled in different directions within a board, especially in the wake of the Occupy movement. … There are questions like, what defines a successful business? Is it about relationships, the way it treats employees and customers? Or is it about maximizing returns to shareholders?”
Childs admits the film may not have had the same impact had everything not “blown up.”
“When it did blow up,” he said, “it was at this level I never truly anticipated.” 
As seen in the December 25, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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