A WinCo Foods sign is pictured in a file photo.

A WinCo Foods sign is pictured in a file photo.

The wait is over for Central Oregon residents: WinCo Foods is opening on Feb. 1 at the old Shopko site, the company announced Monday.

This is the employee-owned store’s first location in Central Oregon. Renovation began in 2019 on the 84,000 square-foot store at the Bend River Plaza.

“Bend and the surrounding area has asked for a WinCo Foods for a long time, and we can’t wait to start serving the good people who live there,” Noah Fleisher, company spokesman said in a prepared statement. “Bend is about community, quality of life and good people, just like WinCo. We intend to work very hard every day to show that to everyone here.”

The store will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Fleisher said in a statement. WinCo has hired about 200 full- and part-time people to staff the store. With the opening of the Bend store, WinCo operates 129 stores in 10 states.

“The introduction of WinCo into the Bend market creates more choice and competition particularly when looking at the more affordable side of the market,” said Damon Runberg, Oregon Employment Department regional economist. “Most of the recent growth in grocery in the region has been on the high end, such as Market of Choice, with fewer options for those shoppers on a tighter budget.”

WinCo has grown tremendously in the past decade with new stores opening in the coming weeks in new markets of Missoula and Bozeman in Montana and Wenatchee, Washington, Runberg said.

The employee-owned grocery chain also has agreed to locate a new store at a former Shopko location in Eugene, bringing the total to three stores in the greater Eugene area, according to various news reports.

Shopko, a Green Bay-based company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019 and closed the Bend location. Since then it closed all of its brick-and-mortar locations after 57 years in business.

Founded in 1967 as a Waremart, according to the company’s website, the WinCo chain’s predominant presence was in the Pacific Northwest through the 1970s. It became employee-owned through an employee stock ownership program in 1985. It is known for its low prices, large bulk food section, not accepting credit cards and requiring customers to bag their own groceries.

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