Kwik Trip plans major expansion in region

Kwik Trip is not a typical convenience store. Kwik Trip stores are larger, averaging about 7,000 square feet in size, and offer fresh grocery items including meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, bakery, dairy and deli sandwiches, in addition to standard convenience store items, a car wash and fueling stations.

The stores are “halfway between a fresh market and a convenience store,” said Hans Zietlow, director of real estate for Kwik Trip. “It’s more like a grocery store, a fast food restaurant and a convenience store all wrapped into one.”

La Crosse-based Kwik Trip has used that formula to post impressive growth. The company started in 1965 with a single store in Eau Claire. By 1986 the company had 100 stores. It grew to 300 stores in 2001, and to 400 stores in 2013. Today, Kwik Trip has 430 stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

The company’s growth plans are to add about 40 stores per year in those three states for at least the next five years, Zietlow said.

“There is still an awful lot of room in the market for us,” he said.

Currently, Kwik Trip has 41 locations in the eight-county southeastern Wisconsin area. The company plans to add several additional locations in the region. Construction either has begun, or could break ground later this year or in 2016, on stores in Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha, Racine, Oak Creek, New Berlin, Sussex, Menomonee Falls, West Bend, Mukwonago, Saukville, Sheboygan and a “number of locations” in Waukesha, Zietlow said.

Kwik Trip does not offer franchising. All of its stores are company-owned.

The company plans to add two new stores in Pleasant Prairie. The village’s Plan Commission recently approved plans for a 10,150-square-foot Kwik Trip store on a 2.9-acre site at the southwest corner of state Highway 50 and county Highway H. Construction is expected to begin in August. Last year, the village approved plans for a Kwik Trip store at the intersection of Highways 165 and 31. Construction of that project began recently.

In Saukville, construction is underway for a Kwik Trip store at I-43 and Highway 33.

In Mukwonago, Kwik Trip is building a store along Highway 83 on the north side of the city.

In Oak Creek, Kwik Trip will build a store at Drexel Avenue and South 10th Street, not far from the mixed-use Drexel Town Square development.

Kwik Trip’s expansion plans in Waukesha include a store planned southwest of Golf Road and North Grandview Boulevard. Construction is expected to begin in August.

In Menomonee Falls, plans were approved late last year for a 5,700-square-foot Kwik Trip store at the northeast corner of Main Street and Pilgrim Road. Construction is expected to begin in June.

In Sussex, Concord Property Management LLC is planning a retail development called Sussex Town Center at the former Marchese’s Danceland site, which would include a Kwik Trip store. Marchese’s Danceland, located on a nine-acre site at W249 N 6424 Highway 164, closed in 2005. Concord plans to replace the former Marchese’s building with a 7,000-square-foot Kwik Trip store and a 2,000-square-foot Taco Bell restaurant. The development could also include a 4,000-square-foot bank branch.

Kwik Trip looks for geographic gaps to fill when planning locations to add new stores, Zietlow said.

“We need traffic, access, demographics,” he said.

There are no Kwik Trip locations currently in the City of Milwaukee or the North Shore suburbs. In some densely developed communities it is hard to find good sites of that size for new stores, Zietlow said. The company looks for well-located two-acre sites.

Eventually, Kwik Trip will add stores in the City of Milwaukee, Zietlow said.

However, some communities are not supportive of the company’s plans, he said. In some communities, local convenience store owners have objected to plans for Kwik Trip stores, saying small local convenience stores can’t compete against a multi-state chain with larger stores and more offerings.

In Menomonee Falls, a Citgo gas station and convenience store owner organized a petition drive in an unsuccessful attempt to block plans for a Kwik Trip store.

“We were denied two or three times in Menomonee Falls before we were finally approved,” Zietlow said.

Plans for a Kwik Trip store in Mukwonago were stalled, but later approved, because of objections from competing gas station owners. Competing gas station owners in Saukville also objected to a Kwik Trip store proposal, but village officials approved the plans. In some cases, neighbors near the proposed Kwik Trip store sites have also objected.

“It’s easier to go where you are welcome,” Zietlow said. “In a free market you can look at a large area and compare (locations). Some places are more difficult to go than other places.”

Zietlow said Kwik Trip doesn’t worry about its competitors and criticized competitors that try to block the company’s growth plans.

“If you can’t compete, you shouldn’t be in business,” he said.

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