Bulk food specialist WinCo Foods is considering Bend as its next market for expansion, potentially adding a new supermarket option in a crowded field of competitors.

The Boise-based supermarket chain is considering a move into the former Shopko location at Bend River Plaza, according to Deschutes County records acquired by The Bulletin. The 20-year lease agreement was signed in August between Shopko Owner LLC and WinCo Foods LLC.

WinCo representatives met with Bend’s Building Safety Division earlier this month to discuss moving into the former Shopko building, Anne Aurand, communications director for the city of Bend, wrote in an email.

“They (WinCo) are proposing a remodel to the store but haven’t yet applied for building permits,” Aurand said.

Noah Fleisher, director of communications for WinCo, did not respond to a phone call request for a comment Friday.

If the grocery superstore completes the move, WinCo would find itself competing for customers with a dozen or so other medium and large grocery stores in Bend, including Fred Meyer, Costco Wholesale, Safeway, Food 4 Less and Market of Choice.

Despite the competition, Bend represents a growing market and is the fastest-growing county in Oregon. Deschutes County grew 21.7% between 2010 and 2018 — more than twice as fast as the overall population growth for Oregon during the same period.

Green Bay-based Shopko filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year and closed all of its brick-and-mortar locations after 57 years in business. The Bend location was one of 250 store closures.

Founded in 1967 and originally called Waremart, WinCo is mostly owned by current and former employees through an employee stock ownership plan.

The company has 18,000 employees and 126 retail stores in 10 U.S. states. Winco features a warehouse-­style look and specializes in bulk bins for a wide range of food items including spices, coffee, candies, cereals, nuts and grains.

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, mkohn@bendbulletin.com