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The employee-owned company WinCo Foods recently purchased nearly 10 acres west of Interstate 15 and south of Custer Avenue for an 84,975-square-foot store with 496 parking spaces.

After buying land in Helena for a new grocery store, WinCo Foods is delaying plans to apply for a permit.

“WinCo directed us to complete our design drawings but not submit for permit. We are ‘on hold’ right now and we do not have a definite date for submittal," Priya Raman, senior project manager with the Boise firm hired by WinCo to draft design drawings, said in a March 16 email to the city of Helena's chief building official Jon Pallister. 

The email from B.Hills Architecture did not say why WinCo wasn’t moving forward, and the store did not return multiple requests for comment.

WinCo foods is an employee-owned company with 113 stores in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Texas.

The company already owns 10 acres west of Interstate 15 and south of Custer Avenue in Helena. WinCo initially planned to build a 84,975-square-foot store with 496 parking spaces. The location is close to Super 1 Foods, Albertsons, Natural Grocers and Costco Wholesale.

In October, a spokesperson said Helena was attractive due to its stable job market and ability to draw shoppers from all over the region.

WinCo first announced it would open a store in Helena in October as its first Montana location, but the store didn’t provide a timetable for completion.

The grocery store also announced plans to open a location in Bozeman, but canceled those plans in November, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The city planners asked WinCo to make design changes to better match “Bozeman’s unique urban design character — as opposed to standardized franchise architecture,” the planners wrote. WinCo was uncomfortable with the request and canceled its plans, the Chronicle reported.

The company said it's able to keep costs low by only accepting cash and debit cards, not bagging groceries and dealing with providers instead of distributors.

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