ANDOVER -- The management fight that has engulfed the company that runs the Market Basket grocery chain over the past year broadened on Wednesday to include a golf course the company owns.

A Market Basket director affiliated with a push for change at the Tewksbury-based chain, Gerard Levins, arrived during a fundraising event Monday morning to talk with the longtime general manager at Indian Ridge Country Club in Andover. As word spread of the conversation -- which the manager described as a confrontation -- supporters of the status quo at Demoulas Supermarkets Inc. rallied at the club Wednesday against Levins and the side of the Demoulas family he is affiliated with.

Supporters of Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas rally at the company-owned Indian Ridge Country Club in Andover on Wednesday. From left are Joe Garon of
Supporters of Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas rally at the company-owned Indian Ridge Country Club in Andover on Wednesday. From left are Joe Garon of North Andover, a 49-year employee, his son John Garon of Methuen and at far right, Meaghan Ulicnik of Methuen. See a video at lowellsun.com. SUN/ DAVID H. BROW

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"How can you not be loyal to someone so loyal to you?" said Elizabeth St. Hilaire of Lawrence, who has worked in the Indian Ridge clubhouse for 13 years. She and others pledged their support for Demoulas Supermarkets CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, the popular leader whose style of management has won him a strong following.

"The best boss you could ever ask for," said Adele Nolan, a waitress at the club for 10 years.

Cheri Nolan, the Indian Ridge general manager, said she was approached Monday morning during a fundraiser by Levins, an attorney and two representatives from Sterling Golf Management. Demoulas Supermarkets hired Sterling to oversee operations of the club.

Nolan said she was intimidated and called police.


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The incident has made Indian Ridge employees uneasy, she said.

"The uncertainty is an awful way to live," said Nolan, who has worked at Indian Ridge for 42 years and served for a decade as general manager.

A spokesman for Levins said the incident Monday was a "very polite conversation." Levins and the others in his group said they acted appropriately and with great respect, David Falcone said.

"No precipitous changes in staffing or pay and benefits are anticipated," Falcone said.

Joining the crowd at Indian Ridge Country Club demonstrating in support of Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas on Wednesday are, from left, club staffers
Joining the crowd at Indian Ridge Country Club demonstrating in support of Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas on Wednesday are, from left, club staffers Adele Nolan of Derry, N.H., Cathi Colman (in back) of Tewksbury, Elizabeth St. Hilaire of Lawrence, Meaghan Ulicnik of Methuen, Stephanie Bard of Methuen and Amanda Robbins of Derry, N.H. SUN / DAVID H. BROW

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Sterling Golf Management will oversee all club operations, he said. "This is an addition, not a subtraction."

Levins is associated with the Arthur S. Demoulas side of the chain's founding family, which has battled for years with the Arthur T. Demoulas side of the family. The two Demoulases are cousins.

The Market Basket board issued this statement Wednesday night:

"Demoulas Market Basket is in the Supermarket business, not the country club business. A few months ago, a Demoulas Market Basket executive chose to order Demoulas Market Basket to hire all the Indian Ridge Country Club's employees, from IRCC, which is a company owned by him, after the Board determined that his IRCC company was no longer going to be paid to operate the Country Club.

Wednesday’s rally included a few hundred employees from both Indian Ridge and Market Basket.SUN / DAVID H. BROWSun staff photos can be ordered by
Wednesday's rally included a few hundred employees from both Indian Ridge and Market Basket. SUN / DAVID H. BROW

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
The Company has now hired a well-regarded firm to manage the club and remedy the executive's action, which will ensure that the club is professionally managed on behalf of its members, for so long as it is owned by Demoulas Market Basket.

Monday's fundraising event was for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lawrence. The executive director of the club, Markus Fischer, said he did not witness the conversation but has always been pleased with the Andover course.

"Indian Ridge has been amazing to us," he said.

Sterling Golf Management, which also operates the Chelmsford Country Club among others, will begin managing Indian Ridge once lawyers finalize an agreement, said Steve Osgood, the Sterling president.

"The main goal for us is to try to re-establish the club as a first-class private club in the region," he said.

Wednesday's rally included a few hundred supporters from both Indian Ridge and Market Basket. Many wore the ties, white dress shirts and maroon coats the chain is known for. So many showed up that traffic slowed on Lowell Street (Route 133) and Lovejoy Road heading in and out of the course.

"This is all part of the Market Basket family," said Joe Garon, a 49-year employee, a buyer in the chain's headquarters.

Indian Ridge workers who took part in the rally also stood outside the Wyndham Hotel for hours one day last July for a Market Basket board meeting in which employees feared Arthur T. Demoulas would be fired. They said they never feared for their jobs until last summer, when a change in the makeup of the seven-member board gave majority control to the Arthur S. Demoulas side of the family.

"We don't know if we'll have a job or our boss will have a job," said Stephanie Bard, who works at the course and was married there.

St. Hilaire, a co-worker, said Arthur T. Demoulas supported her during a seven-year battle with cancer and regularly asks her how her children are doing.

She answers to him, not company directors, she said.

"I'm not leaving this place until he tells me I'm leaving," she said.

Follow Grant Welker on Twitter and Tout @SunGrantWelker.