BELLINGHAM - Discount grocer WinCo Foods is aiming for a mid-August opening of a major store in Bellingham, adding another option in an already competitive local market.
The company is currently remodeling the former Joe's Sporting Goods building at 300 E. Bellis Fair Parkway and has begun advertising job openings.
WinCo plans on employing about 200 people at the Bellingham store, with about 180 positions being filled by local job-seekers, said Michael Read, a spokesman for the company.
WinCo received approval from the city to do about $7 million of remodeling work on the structure, according to the building permit. Read said he's not exactly sure how much of the 103,000-square-foot building WinCo will be occupying, but a typical store is about 94,000 square feet.
WinCo is known for its large bulk foods section, along with having a large selection of groceries, fresh meat and produce as well as a bakery. It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The goal for WinCo is to be the low-price leader in any market it enters, Read said. The company has been pleased with the results of its recent openings of stores in Washington.
"Western Washington is an extraordinarily good market for us," Read said. "Sometimes it's hard to find a property that's the right fit for us, but we examine each market thoroughly."
One aspect that's different about WinCo from many grocery stores is that it is an employee-owned company. An employee who works more than 1,000 hours a year becomes fully vested in five years, at which point the company contributes to a pension account. Along with stock ownership, the company offers a variety of other benefits, including health coverage and life insurance.
The grocery industry is one that's been steadily growing in Bellingham. Retailers in the food and beverage category rung up $74.3 million in sales last year, up from $63 million in 2009, according to data from the Washington State Department of Revenue. The number of businesses in that category has increased from 121 in 2009 to 139 last year.
Based in Boise, Idaho, WinCo has about 90 stores and is steadily adding more; Read said they plan on opening eight new stores in the coming 12 months.
For those interested in applying for work at the Bellingham store, visit wincofoods.com/about/careers.