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    QuikTrip Opens in Tucson

    Three more slated for the town before May.

    TUCSON, Ariz. -- QuikTrip opened its first Tucson convenience store a night early last week, reported the Arizona Daily Star. It was supposed to be unveiled the following morning, but "we were just standing around taking pictures, we were ready to go, and finally we just took the barricades down and let them in ... [at] about 9 p.m.," said Troy DeVos, QuikTrip's director of real estate, who has been living in Tucson for the last two years preparing for QuikTrip's invasion.

    This is the first of the Tulsa-based chain's four gas and convenience stores set to open in Tucson before late April. And there are likely many more to come, according to the Star. QuikTrip opened 70 stores in the Phoenix area since 2000, said company spokesman Mike Thornbrugh.

    Thornbrugh told the Star he couldn't comment, for competitive reasons, on the company's Tucson expansion beyond the first four stores, but he said QuikTrip typically comes in to "build as many as the market will hold."

    The Arizona paper reported that inside, the stores are a shrine to guilty food -- and a fair amount of healthful fare for a convenience store.

    It has roughly 18 feet of heated rollers slowly spinning hot dogs, sausages, taquitos and other tubular foods; cases of fresh-made doughnuts, muffins and other pastries; banks of smoothie, milkshake and Freezoni machines; five coffee blends; flavored cappuccino dispensers; and a soda fountain featuring Coca-Cola products. It also has fresh fruit, yogurt and granola cups, and freshly made sandwiches on whole wheat, honey wheat or even berry wheat bread (260 to 340 calorie count).

    The point of selling gasoline is not just to bring people in to make money on inside purchases, nor to just make money on huge volumes of gasoline sales, Thornbrugh said.

    "They're both profit points. We're not a not-for-profit business. We do sell a lot of gas. We sell almost 1.8 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States -- just shy of $8 billion in sales revenue for fiscal 2008. But we have really concentrated on the inside. We spend an awful lot of money on our inside presentation," Thornbrugh said.

    Gasoline sales have been driven by more than price at QuikTrip, said Thornbrugh, who added the company's compliance with the auto manufacturers' "Top Tier" rating system (for gasoline additive standards) makes its gasoline a draw. Top Tier is a rating endorsed by Audi, BMW, GM, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen. And QuikTrip is actually listed in those manufacturers' owner's manuals.

    There's even a companywide guarantee that QuikTrip will make good on damages caused by substandard gasoline bought from its pumps.

    Thornbrugh repeatedly declined comment on convenience store competitors, except to say being privately held allows QuikTrip to do some things the unnamed others may not be able to do. QuikTrip management is "not interested in impressing investors on Wall Street," he said.

    He said QuikTrip provides health and other benefits, including a matched 401(k) plan, to all full-time employees.

    "Our average manager of a store is getting close to $70,000 a year. And what we consider the average store employee -- a 2A, or second assistant manager -- in the upper thirties," Thornbrugh said.

    DeVos added the company asks a lot of its employees. They look sharp, and they get incentives based on snap inspections of their facilities -- including restroom checks, which are expected to be clean at QuikTrip.

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