WinCo Foods, Inc. is one of the few most successful majority employee-owned, privately-held companies in the United States today. Founded in 1967, most of its ownership stakes are held by former and current employees via a successful employee stock ownership program.
As of September 2015, it has over 15,000 employees as well as 102 retail stores across several states including Idaho (i.e., its headquarters are in Boise), California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Oregon, and Washington. Its 5 distribution centers are located in Boise, Idaho; Woodburn, Oregon; Phoenix, Arizona; Myrtle Creek, Oregon; and Modesto, California.
The American supermarket chain was founded by Ralph Ward and Bud Williams. But in 1985, the company implemented an employee stock ownership plan whereby employees purchase its majority interest from the Ward family in what was then known as Waremart. This resulted in the Waremart employees owning and growing their ownership stake in what is now known as WinCo Foods.
In January 1991, the company opened its Boise-based 82,000 square-foot store, which replaced two of its older stores in the city. At the time, it was already operating 16 retail stores in the Northwest region with reported annual sales of over $300 million.
In 1999, it changed its name from Waremart to WinCo Foods in accordance with its new ownership. According to the employee-owned company, the new name comes from two sources – first, it is a portmanteau of “Winning Company”; and second, it forms the initials of the first 5 states where its operations started (i.e., Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Oregon).
Winco Foods Inc. expands its operations and, thus, expanding its reputation as a regional supermarket chain to a nationwide chain able to compete with the titans of the industry. The supermarkets are also known for their quality yet affordable products, partly due to the company’s policy of reducing operating expenses by making direct purchases from farmers and manufacturers, having no-frills stores, and accepting both cash and debit cards (i.e., WinCo does not accept credit card payments).