In this Aug. 17, 2019, file photo, the "Kind of Blue" album cover is on display at Bull Moose record store in Portland, which has since closed. Bull Moose staff at the recently shuttered Salem, New Hampshire have been offered their jobs back after they were abruptly fired in May. Credit: David Sharp / AP

The owner of a popular local retail chain that abruptly fired staff in May at a New Hampshire store apologized Friday and said the company has offered everyone their jobs back.

“A few weeks ago, Bull Moose suddenly terminated 20 people in Salem,” owner Brett Wickard said in a statement posted on the retail store’s social media platforms. “[A]nd while that really didn’t sound like us, it was, and we must take responsibility for that. We are sorry that we did not act anywhere near how we want to be as a company.”

Multiple former employees at the Bull Moose store in Salem, New Hampshire, told the Bangor Daily News that the sudden terminations in May were prompted by broad disagreements between management and staff about the store’s mask policy.

Bull Moose workers disagreed with management’s decision to drop mask requirements for shoppers and prohibited staff from asking customers’ vaccination status, saying it left them vulnerable to frequent harassment by customers who often used the threat of coronavirus infection in altercations.

Staff at the Salem store have been offered their jobs back, with backpay, Wickard said. He also committed to raising wages for all employees to $15 an hour by next June.

Founded in Brunswick in 1989 by Wickard, Bull Moose has been a beloved hub for music, film and gaming fans in Maine and New Hampshire. The store closed its Portland location last November, leaving it with eight stores in Maine and three in New Hampshire before shuttering its Salem location last week.

Wickard pledged to give Salem workers “the support, training and care they so deserve,” and give them “a stronger voice in company directions that impact them.”

“Over the last few weeks, we listened to our staff and got to work on fixing what we could, changing what needed to be changed, and demonstrating a concrete recommitment to our values,” Wickard said.

Kam Brooksmoore, an employee at the Salem store, said that many of the workers planned to return to Bull Moose.

“We have advocated strongly for increased wages and a change in leadership around Bull Moose so I am glad that we were able to get those things for the company as a whole,” Brooksmoore said.