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As the founder of Kwik Trip Inc., John Hansen was at the forefront of the young, but growing c-store industry. Under his leadership, the chain was one of the first to offer warehouse distribution, fresh baked goods, private-label products such as its signature milk program, and open its own commissary. Kwik Trip was also a pioneer in c-store technology and point-of-sale scanning.
Hansen was inducted into Convenience Store News' Convenience Industry Hall of Fame in 2002.
He now heads Nesnah Ventures, with interests in wholesale fuel, ethanol production, wind-tower manufacturing, human resources, fast-casual Mexican restaurants, assisted living developments and other businesses. The company has annual sales of more than $750 million.
What was your first experience in the c-store industry?
I began running the first Kwik Trip store in Eau Claire, Wis., in May 1965.
What made you stay in the industry?
I loved the people -- coworkers, customers and suppliers.
What is the most remarkable thing you’ve experienced, seen or learned while in the industry?
The addition of gas to our grocery-only neighborhood stores.
In what ways that you didn't anticipate has the industry changed?
Fast food sales have grown while cigarette sales have declined.
In your opinion, what has had the biggest impact on the c-store industry in the last 40 years?
The addition of gasoline and the use of credit cards, plus retail technology.
What c-store product do you like the most?
Salted nut rolls. I like the sweet-and salty combination.
What c-store product do you dislike the most?
Pornographic material because it degrades women who have proven to be the industry's most valued co-workers. We are morally corrupting our society.
Which businessperson in the industry do you most admire?
The industry's early founders, including QuikTrip's Chester Cadieux, PDQ's Sam Jacobson, Maverick Market's Erich Wendl, the Thompsons of 7-Eleven, Happy Foods' Fred Lowder, first NACS President Harry Hunter and educators such as Dr. Si Trieb [head of the Extension Marketing Department of the University of Georgia; former NACS consultant].
If you were to jump into the c-store business today, what would be your biggest concerns and opportunities?
I wouldn't have concerns; there are great opportunities. This is a fantastic industry with great people.