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LA CROSSE, Wis. — Kwik Trip Inc. may have 500 convenience stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, but the true backbone of the business is its 90-acre campus situated on — aptly named — Kwik Trip Way in its hometown of La Crosse.
The retailer has always been ahead of its time, becoming one of the convenience channel's leaders in changing from a traditional smoke-and-gas operation to a fierce contender in foodservice. Kwik Trip also stands out for being among the few to offer an employee stock ownership plan — a promise founder and CEO Don Zietlow made in 1957 and had the opportunity to make a reality roughly 30 years later. Zietlow was inducted into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame in November.
What truly sets Kwik Trip apart from the rest of the convenience field, though, is its vertical integration business model. So much so that the retailer often gives tours of its campus to other c-store retailers, including some of the biggest names in the industry.
Convenience Store News was fortunate to be among those to get a behind-the-scenes look into how and what makes Kwik Trip tick. The tour of the campus began at the Kwik Trip Support Center, which is responsible for maintaining the smooth, efficient and orderly flow of finances, paperwork, store operations and record-keeping for both office and retail functions.
Quite impressively, the Communications Room inside the center has associates on-hand 24 hours a day to help resolve issues that arise at any of the retailer's Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Hearty Platter and Tobacco Outlet Plus locations. Everything from equipment failures to power outages is fielded through this hub.
The campus also hums with activity at the Kwik Trip Bakery, where fresh-baked goods like doughnuts, muffins and cookies are made. (Try the button cookies; they do not disappoint.)
At the Kwik Trip Dairy, a full-service dairy production facility, coworkers make the retailer's own brand of ice cream, bottle its own milk and even produce its own plastic jugs.
The Kwik Trip Commissary meanwhile buzzes with coworkers creating fresh offerings for the chain's retail locations. Everything from soup to pizza to fresh salads are made daily for customers across Kwik Trip's three-state footprint.
These offerings — along with commodities like bananas, potatoes and eggs, and all other inventory — are delivered to the chain's locations through the Kwik Trip Distribution Center. This 155,000-square-foot storage and shipping facility centralizes the delivery operations, which sees Kwik Trip's own fleet bring products to each store on a daily basis.
The facility also houses Kwik Trip's cigarette stamping and tobacco humidor, as well as the operations department for its fleet of delivery and fuel vehicles. With its own fleet, the retailer's campus also features the Kwik Trip Fleet Maintenance Shop where coworkers perform inspections, repairs and routine maintenance.
The Kwik Trip campus houses an ice plant and food safety lab, too.
Even at 90 acres, there will be reason to expand as Kwik Trip continues to grow, both through store count and innovation. As Zietlow told Convenience Store News upon his Hall of Fame induction, "We just finished our best year ever and I believe the years going forward will be even better."