REDMOND, Ore. — Crews busily worked Tuesday afternoon putting the finishing touches on the new Wilco farm store, getting ready for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the “sneak peek” event that would follow.
As the store’s employees scurried about, caterers and a local brewery and winery set up shop in the brand new store for the grand opening.
“This will be our 20th farm store,” said Sam Bugarsky, Wilco’s president of retail stores. He also said the store is the newest generation of the co-op’s farm stores, with about 10 percent more floor space than other locations, such as the Bend store.
Wilco’s 19th store opened last June in East Bremerton, Wash.
Wilco is a cooperative owned by about 3,000 farmer-members. It was formed in 1967, he said.
The cooperative has four divisions — Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, an ag business division that provides customers with crop protection products and fertilizers, a petroleum division for commercial fuel delivery and the farm store division.
Of those, the farm store division, with locations in Oregon and Washington, generates the most revenue, he said.
“The farm stores are really built to serve the small farm family or the rural living family,” Bugarsky said.
Although Wilco began in 1967, its farm stores didn’t expand to Central Oregon until 2013, when Round Butte Seed in Culver, Ore., sold two of its farm stores to Wilco.
Business at the Central Oregon stores has tripled since then, he said.
The Central Oregon markets vary from the markets of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where Wilco is based. There was some hesitation from some members about moving out of the valley, Bugarsky said, because of the different climate and markets.
It has been a learning process for the stores in Central Oregon, from what types of plants to stock in the greenhouse to figuring out they needed to carry snow blowers and shovels for the snowy High Desert winters, something they had not done in the valley, said Bugarsky.
Wilco aims to open one to four new stores a year and is looking at potential locations for them, he said.