For Las Vegas, a Win-Winco Situation?

I went to WinCo looking for Swiss cheese and cereal. I left with a new appreciation of the grocery store wars in Southern Nevada.

March 4 was the grand opening of the newest player in the food market here, and the Henderson store at Stephanie Street and Wigwam Parkway was mobbed. (There’s also a new WinCo on Decatur Boulevard in Las Vegas.) The lot was so full that people were parking in a dirt field across the street. There was a 20-minute line just to get a shopping cart. After navigating near-gridlock inside, shoppers were facing another 20-30 minute wait to check out.

If you’ve never heard of WinCo—unless you’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest or Utah, you probably haven’t—it’s difficult to understand the excitement. Do we really need another grocery store chain? We have Smith’s, your dad’s grocery store; Vons, see Smith’s; Albertsons, see Vons; Fresh & Easy, a feel-good convenience store; Costco, Walmart for Democrats; Sam’s Club, Walmart for Republicans; Whole Foods, the place you want your neighbors to think you shop; Food 4 Less, the place you don’t want your neighbors to think you shop; Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods without the attitude; a few Super Targets; and probably some others I’m forgetting. I thought we’d already reached market saturation.

But now we have WinCo too, a supersize, warehouse-type store that arrives with its own fan club. Think Costco, without the membership fees or having to buy your toilet paper in 36-roll packs. The selection is panic-inducing, and the prices are Walmart-low. Once the hysteria dies down, it might actually be a place I’d want to shop. That should take about a week, one employee told me. Until then, I might try hitting it at 2 a.m.; WinCo is open 24/7.