Josh Farley, Kitsap Sun
Published 7:00 a.m. PT June 4, 2018
An artist’s rendering of the Wilco Farm Store in Bremerton. (Photo: Wilco)
EAST BREMERTON – Riddell Road straddles a line in Kitsap County that Wilco was looking for.
On Wednesday, the growing farm store chain will open its 19th location in a big box property off Wheaton Way that was last vacated by Lowe’s in 2002. To the north, across Riddell, the cooperative believes there’ll be demand from rural farmers and ranchers. To the south in more urbanized Bremerton, the shoppers will come to grow their gardens, groom their pets and improve their homes.
“You have both a dense area of consumers and at the same time can connect really well to the rural farm families,” said Sam Bugarsky, president of Wilco retail stores. “We’re right on the edge, and that’s exactly where we want to be.”
Wilco isn’t the only store specializing in helping local farms, pets and gardens entering the Kitsap market. About a month ago, Tractor Supply Co. opened off Bucklin Hill Road in Silverdale in a building formerly occupied by Albertsons. Kelly Elkins, the store’s manager, says business has been brisk so far, particularly for pet supplies.
“I knew this would do well,” said Elkins, who’s helped open other stores with the company for the past 13 years.
Elkins says people aren’t just interested in “farm to table” food as a hobby, but because it makes economical sense.
“It’s cheaper in the long run to raise your own,” he said.
Wilco’s growth has kept the Oregon-based cooperative, which invests profits in Pacific Northwest farmers, looking northward. A Gig Harbor location, born in 2011, has done well on the peninsula. But its loyalty reward program found a significant number of customers coming from Kitsap County.
“The short answer is our customers are coming from Kitsap County and we want to be there for them,” Bugarsky said.
The 37,000-square-foot Bremerton location will include its “store within a store” model, to include products for farming and ranching, pet grooming services, “lifestyle” clothing for outdoor work and hardware.
The opening Wednesday marks the reactivation of another section of a formerly depressed Wheaton Way shopping complex. In 2015 a, fitness company opened a gym in a neighboring building and earlier this year, the old Kmart building within the same parking lot was purchased by a Gig Harbor real estate company for redevelopment.