Joe Albertson would have been proud: WinCo CEO wanders the store

On Friday morning, I was at WinCo’s Front Street store in Boise and noticed a slow-moving guy in a gray plaid suit and blue dress shirt, but no tie. As he eyed the produce, I read his WinCo name badge, “STEVE.”

Underneath the name: “President/CEO.”

Steven Goddard smiled, acknowledging that, yes, indeed, he was the man who has led WinCo since 2007, during a remarkable period of expansion funded by cash flow, not debt.

Goddard was sheepish when I asked about my colleague Audrey Dutton’s story last month and a quip from retail analyst Burt Flickinger III, who called WinCo “Wal-Mart’s worst nightmare.”

Flickinger’s one-liner was picked up by Time magazine. Goddard seemed uncomfortable with the attention. He just wants to keep customers happy.

We chatted for a couple minutes about the business before Goddard shuffled off. Passing by the beets and chard, he noticed a bit of debris on the floor. Sweeping it aside with a black dress loafer, he headed toward bulk foods.

As I was checking out, Goddard was ending his tour and waved his thanks for my patronage. I told the checker the CEO had just cased the joint; looking at Goddard’s back, the young man said he wasn’t sure he’d recognize the big boss.

The encounter prompted memories of my only interview with Albertsons founder Joe Albertson, a retail genius whose company is now attempting a comeback after getting overextended.

We met in 1990 as I was working on a special Statesman magazine marking the centennial of statehood. Joe’s successor, Gary Michael, also was on hand.

What I remember best was how Joe spoke of trusting his gut. He told of choosing store locations based on how much laundry was on lines and how many toys were scattered in yards as he wandered through neighborhoods.

My guess is Joe would be impressed with WinCo’s success and a CEO who makes a point of getting out and kicking the tires.




Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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