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WinCo store a long time coming

The decision to build a WinCo Foods supermarket in Roseburg has been a long time coming.

The employee-owned supermarket chain, which is known for its bulk items and low prices, has been looking to open a store in the area for more than a decade, company officials said.

Apparently the time has arrived.

The Boise-based company has submitted preliminary plans with the City of Roseburg to demolish the vacant Kmart at 2757 NW Stewart Parkway and replace it with a WinCo supermarket. The site plan review is scheduled to come before the Roseburg Planning Commission on Monday.

“We’re very excited, we’ve wanted to get to Roseburg for a long time,” said Noah Fleisher, director of corporate communications for WinCo. “We found a great site and we’re ready to go.”

Fleisher said a number of factors, including the site location, market conditions, population and industry density, all contributed to making this the right time to open a store here.

“We’re a growth company and we’re always looking to grow,” he said.

There are a number of factors that set WinCo supermarkets apart from its competitors, Fleisher said, most importantly the company’s ownership structure.

“The first thing that separates us are the employee-owners at WinCo,” Fleisher said. “They actually own the store, so it’s a different mindset. They all have a stake in what goes on, so they make sure everything is clean and the shelves are stocked.”

WinCo also has very competitive prices, he said.

“We work directly with vendors and providers, and we work as hard as we can to offer the largest selection and the highest quality at the lowest price.”

And then there are the bulk items, which are hugely popular among shoppers, Fleisher said.

“You can buy a single bay leaf or a pound of it,” he said.

The Kmart building covers about 88,000 square feet. The new WinCo store would be about 73,000 square feet, according to the plans submitted to the city. The store will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The property WinCo intends to buy covers two parcels, the Kmart site and the Big 5 Sporting Goods building at 2655 NW Stewart Parkway. The total site covers about 9.45 acres. WinCo has said it has no plans to change the current business operations of Big 5.

A GOOD SIGNThe listed owner of the property is Invest West Alpha, out of Aliso Viejo, California. According to the county assessor, the listed value of the total property is $5.3 million.

WinCo is under contract to buy the property, but will not close on the deal until it receives final approval to build the supermarket at the site, Fleisher said. That is typical for such developments, he said.

“We cannot build anything without city approvals, so we need to obtain those first,” Fleisher said. “Once we do, we will build.”

Once construction begins it should take about a year before the store opens, he said.

Tim Duy, an economics professor at the University of Oregon and senior director of the school’s Oregon Economic Forum, said the fact WinCo wants to build in Roseburg is a good sign for the community.

“As a general rule, expansion of such core services reflects the growth of the surrounding community,” Duy said. “In other words, it is exactly the kinds of investment we would expect to see as the community grows larger. Also, it can be a psychological boost when a vacant building is renewed into a new business. So yes, overall good.”

However, Duy also noted that the ultimate number of jobs added to the community may be less than the 150 WinCo said it will bring, since the new store could possibly “siphon some demand” from nearby competitors and thus result in a reduction of jobs at those stores.

Wayne Patterson, executive director of the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership, which works to grow jobs and the economy in the region, said that studies have shown there to be a shortage of grocery stores in the region for years.

Patterson also said he and the partnership welcome WinCo — and the 150 jobs it could bring — to the community.

“I know WinCo has built a great reputation for themselves as both a grocery supplier and an employer, we welcome both. We have a lot of people that live here that have had a personal experience with them and speak highly of them.” Patterson said. “Workforce development in Douglas County comes both through existing employers and new ones. Our hope is that WinCo is very successful and brings with it a unique shopping experience that will further diversify and grow our community.”

LEGAL WRANGLINGOn Feb. 1, WinCo opened two new locations: One in Bend, which was formerly a ShopKo, and one in Wenatchee, Washington. The openings represented the 23rd WinCo Foods store in each state.

Two other stores opened in Montana in late February. That brings the total number of stores to 133 in 11 states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Montana.

WinCo also has a distribution center in Tri City that employs more than 50 people.

Typically, an application like the one WinCo submitted would be handled by staff and would not require a public hearing, said Stuart Cowie, director of development for Roseburg.

But the size and scope of this development proposal means some discretionary standards could be applied by the city, which in turn opens the door for that decision to be appealed, he said.

“Based on WinCo’s past experience with other stores they worked on, they said there could be someone that appeals this decision,” Cowie said. “They asked if they could have it go before the planning commission, and we said sure.”

If the Planning Commission decision is appealed, it would come before the City Council, he said. And if the City Council’s decision is appealed, it would go to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

The approval process has not always been smooth sailing for WinCo Foods stores.

In 2015, a union group in Albany appealed a WinCo location based on the argument that road conditions weren’t evaluated well enough and the chain wasn’t compatible in the area.

In 2016, a group in Grant County, Washington, appealed the decision to allow a WinCo store there, citing traffic concerns and potential impacts on existing stores in the area.

And in 2019, WinCo ran into a legal wrangle over plans to build a store in Bozeman, Montana. A group of union members sued the city for approving the store’s designs, claiming the proposed store didn’t belong where it was planned. An attorney for the group argued that his clients worked for area grocery stores and were concerned that the new WinCo could cost them their job stability.

The group also said that Bozeman violated the public’s right to offer feedback on the development.

In all three cases the appeals were eventually denied and the stores were built.

Surprise appearance from the Easter Bunny quickly draws a crowd

When Shari Adams saw the Easter Bunny costume at the store she knew what had to be done.

Buy the costume and arrange it so the “Easter Bunny” could make a surprise early entrance at Stewart Park on Wednesday.

“We’re going to go out and make some kids smile,” Adams said.

With the help of the Easter Bunny, Adams created a short video on her Facebook page, offering the chance for friends and family to bring their children to have photos taken with — excuse the expression — some bunny special.

“I just wanted to do something fun for my people,” Adams said on her post.

Ultimately, Adams decided she needed an accomplice to hop on the bandwagon and assume the role.

Enter her daughter, 12-year-old Lana Adams. Lana agreed to become the Easter Bunny on Wednesday at Stewart Park, on a day where the high unofficially reached 77. Lana didn’t let the warmth dampen her enthusiasm as the big bunny in charge.

At first, it was quiet for the fantastic furry one — too quiet.

That is until Oliver Peterson, 6, and Liam Peterson, 3, spotted the Easter Bunny from the other side of Stewart Park while walking with their mom, Kelsey Peterson.

The two boys waved excitedly.

The Easter Bunny waved back and jumped up and down in excitement as well.

That’s all it took. Both boys broke into a run until they reached the Easter Bunny, where they alternated between hugs, photos and smiles of wonderment.

As parents broke out their phones and excited children ran toward her, Lana, aka the Easter Bunny, didn’t stop. There was an animated game of Simon Says, a climb onto the rope swing at Stewart Park and with some extra effort, a trip down the slide unscathed.

As the Easter Bunny walked out of the park, with a little help from Shari Adams, there was talk of a return trip to Stewart Park on Thursday.

Douglas County gets OK to immediately begin vaccinations for group 7

There’s some good news for Douglas County residents who are frontline workers and younger adults with underlying conditions.

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said the county received the go-ahead from the state Tuesday to immediately begin vaccinating everyone in Group 7 for COVID-19.

The state had originally said only those in Group 6 or earlier groups were eligible, with Group 7 becoming eligible next week.

The list of underlying health conditions that qualify includes cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, down syndrome, heart conditions, obesity, sickle cell disease, pregnancy and type 2 diabetes

Frontline workers now eligible for vaccines include workers in agriculture, food service, grocery stores, forestry, colleges, the postal service, transportation, manufacturing, energy, utilities, housing, media, child care, public health administration, finance, legal, government and more.

Among those who were already eligible from earlier groups are education and healthcare workers, first responders, migrant farm workers, seafood workers, homeless individuals, people in low-income senior housing or congregate living and wildland firefighters.

Group 7 also includes people in multigenerational households, meaning a home where three or more generations live, or people who are residing with and caring for a relative who is not their own child.

Saturday’s drive-thru vaccination event, hosted by the county, Douglas Public Health Network and Aviva Health, will now be open to Group 7 as well as all earlier groups.

Online signup sheets for the event are at www.eventbrite.com/e/148676311851. A link is also available at douglaspublichealthnetwork.org.

Registration is also available for the event by calling 541-671-3646 and leaving a voicemail. A volunteer will call back to help you sign up for the event.

Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported seven new cases Wednesday.

Three county residents are currently hospitalized with the illness, one locally and two out of the area.

In the Oregon Health Authority’s weekly outbreak report for this week, two nursing homes are listed with active outbreaks but neither had new cases.

Umpqua Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation Center’s outbreak had no new cases this week, remaining at 14 total.

Roseburg Veterans Administration River House’s outbreak also had no new cases this week, remaining at 3.

Workplace outbreaks were also quiet.

Umpqua Dairy Products had one new case, bringing its total to 14 cases in an outbreak that began March 11, with the most recent reported case on March 20.

Swanson Group Manufacturing had no new cases, remaining at 36. That outbreak began Feb. 12, with the most recent case listed as March 12.

Roseburg VA Medical Center had no new cases, remaining at 13 in an outbreak that began Feb. 12, with the most recent reported case on March 17.

Roseburg Forest Products has outbreaks at three of its operations, but no new cases. The Dillard Lumber plant remained at 15 in an outbreak that began March 11, with the most recent reported case on March 17.

Its Dillard Plywood plant remained at 10 cases in an outbreak that began March 11, with the most recent case reported to have been on March 5. Its Riddle Plywood plant remained at seven cases in an outbreak that began March 11, with the most recent case reported on March 13.

Statewide, the Oregon Health Authority reported 441 new cases and two new deaths Wednesday.