New owners plan extensive changes at Winthrop store
By Ann McCreary
After more than 50 years as a local, family-owned business, the Winthrop Evergreen IGA has changed hands and is now owned by another longtime family supermarket business.
Owned and operated since the mid-1960s by the Walker family — and most recently Mike Walker — the Winthrop Evergreen IGA has been purchased by a family business based near Portland, Oregon.
Three siblings — Matthew Marcott, Pamela Garcia and Linda Harris — own eight stores in California, Oregon and Washington through their company, Northwest Supermarket Holdings. The Winthrop store is the company’s third grocery store in Washington.
“We’ve had stores since 1987,” said Marcott, who was in Winthrop this week to assist with renovations that are underway at the Winthrop supermarket. “Most of our stores, like Winthrop, are in smaller communities outside major cities.”
Marcott said he began discussing the idea of purchasing the store with owner Mike Walker about a year ago. “We’d been looking to purchase another store, and I learned of the store in Winthrop. Mike was ready to retire. I met with Mike. I loved the area, it was just coming out of winter, things were starting to melt. As these things do, one thing led to another,” Marcott said. The purchase was completed in February this year.
The staff of the store has remained the same through the change in ownership, Marcott said. “When we took over we hired everybody,” Marcott said. However, the appearance of the store and the products it carries are undergoing some big changes. The name of the store will also change to Methow Valley Thriftway.
Signs of transition at the store are apparent. Entire rows of shelves have been removed and products shifted from one place to another in preparation for further changes to come. Marcott said the disruption will likely continue through May. “Doing a store [remodel] is like doing your house — you kind of have to tear it up before you put it back together,” he said.
A large part of the makeover is being done to accommodate a much larger produce department and a new bulk foods section, Marcott said.
“The produce is tucked away in the corner and we’re bringing it out more into the store — giving more square footage and more items to display,” he said. The bulk foods department will fill a growing demand among consumers nationally, he said. “It’s getting really popular. People are getting more conscious of their packaging” and like to have more control over how much of an item they purchase, Marcott said.
The store will carry more than 2,000 new items, and about half of them will be “natural or organic” products, Marcott said. Those will include more organic fruits and vegetables in the expanded produce department, more natural and organic frozen foods, and more beverages such as kombuchas and vegetable and fruit drinks. A new beverage case at the front of the store will be stocked with sodas and other standard drinks, as well as “all the new age beverages” that are growing in popularity, he said.
Marcott said he and his sisters seek out local products to promote at all their stores and will do the same in the Methow Valley. “Any local product we bring on and push,” he said. The beer selection will be expanded to include more local and craft brews, and a walk-in beer cooler will be installed.
In keeping with the emphasis on local products, the store is teaming up with a longtime Methow Valley business, Thomson’s Custom Meats, Marcott said. Owner Chris Thomson will move his operations from Twisp to the Thriftway, where he will continue to offer his custom-made sausages, smoked meats, seafood, natural beef, pork and lamb.
The remodeled store will have an eating area with tables and chairs near the current entrance and will expand its offerings of delicatessen items, hot food and sandwiches. “There will be more choice and more fresh-made food,” Marcott said.
The entrance to the store will move to the doors on left side of the building, and shoppers will exit through the doors on the right, which are now the entrance and exit for the store.
Marcott said the Winthrop store is similar to a store his company owns at Mount Hood, Oregon, in terms of seasonal fluctuations in business and customer base. “We gear marketing around the locals — they’re the ones that support the store 52 weeks a year.”
The company’s other Washington stores are in Elma and Raymond, Marcott said. Northwest Supermarket Holdings has two stores at Mount Hood, one in the Portland area, and two in the Sierra Nevada mountains of northern California.
The new ownership of Winthrop’s only grocery store marks a shift in the long tradition of local family ownership. Starting with Lyle Walker in 1964, the Walker family owned and operated the Winthrop store, which has had different names over the years including Evergreen, Winthrop Red Apple and Evergreen IGA. Mike Walker still owns the Winthrop Ace Hardware store next to the grocery store.