A new WinCo location in Centralia is one step closer to arrival thanks to funding secured in the last legislative session.
In 2019, the Port of Centralia announced it had secured the placement of a WinCo store at its proposed Centralia Station project near Mellen Street. Between now and then, the port earned $1.7 million from the state for extension of Yew Street as a piece of the station infrastructure.
This week, WinCo executives announced that the funding was one of the last pieces of the puzzle toward its groundbreaking in Centralia.
WinCo Foods is a warehouse-style supermarket chain that offers a long list of bulk food items. All of its locations are open 24 hours a day.
Though he said the process has required patience both on behalf of WinCo and the port, Greg Goins, vice president of real estate for WinCo Foods, said the company is now ready to announce that “WinCo is under contract on this piece of real estate and that we are soon to be processing for city approvals entitlements on the project.”
That means the company will submit a site plan to the City of Centralia for approval in the coming weeks. And, as announced during a Port of Centralia meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the Powell Development will now move into a purchase and sale agreement with WinCo Foods LLC.
Kyle Heaton, Executive Director of the port, said the contract would give WinCo until Nov. 18 to complete their due diligence process and that “a great portion of their diligence is already completed.” The company is eligible for purchasing up to three 90-day extensions for $50,000 each, if necessary.
Goins and Noah Fleisher, WinCo’s corporate communications director, told The Chronicle this week they are tracking the community’s reaction to the project through conversations and social media. They believe folks are anxious for the project to be built after the first announcement of the new store came years ago.
According to previous reporting in The Chronicle, the grocery store would act as an anchor tenant for the Centralia Station project, with the port hoping to eventually attract other businesses.
“There's been a lot of interest, excitement, if you will, about WinCo coming to Centralia,” Goins said.
Due to potential supply chain issues, the already-arduous process of setting up such a site and “throw(ing) COVID into the mix,” the executives said construction is still a ways out. While the schedule is tentative, Goins said the new grocery store could be open sometime around the summer of 2023, subject to the entitlement approval process.
“Real estate development, as a general rule of thumb, just takes a lot more time than I think people really realize,” he said.
WinCo has 23 stores in Washington from Vancouver to Bellingham. Goins said they chose Centralia because the company’s research “came out great” for the area and they anticipate sales to be strong.
WinCo Foods has an employee-owned model, which Goins said allowed more people employed by the company to make their full-time careers there. During construction, WinCo would require about 120 people. Once open, the location would likely hire between 125 and 150 employees, some part-time and some full-time.
“We consider ourselves to be the low price leader, period. And so we bring high quality, low prices in grocery with all the departments,” Goins said, when asked about the benefits a WinCo would bring to Centralia.
Once rolling, the city entitlements process should take around between three and five months, Goins said.
“Our experience with the port has been extremely favorable. They've been great to work with. They've been straightforward with us,” he said. “We've been patient with them. They've been patient with us because I think, clearly in the end, this is a win-win for WinCo and the port as well as Centralia and all the other communities at large around Centralia.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, port commissioner Peter Lahmann moved to table the agreement between the developer and WinCo, saying that he did not receive the informational packet about the agreement prior to the meeting. His motion did not receive a second on the three-person commissioner board.
The other two commissioners, Julie Shaffley and Kyle Markstrom, moved and seconded the agreement, respectively. In a vote, the two voted for the action while Lahmann voted against it.
“This is exciting and I can see that for the community and for the county as a whole, this is an exciting day,” Shaffley said.
Lahmann agreed, but simply said without reviewing the packet beforehand, he couldn’t vote to move forward.