Sherman, set the wayback machine for 1974, destination LaCrosse, Wisconsin. My first job out of college, I was selling radio advertising for a local AM radio station, WIZM. One of my clients was a small group of convenience stores called “Kwik Trip”, which I believe was part of Gateway Foods Distributors at the time, but subsequently became privately owned by two of the executives.
One of them was named John Hanson, and he and a colleague, Paul Stover I think his name was, sat in a small room in the back of one of the early stores, on Highway 61 heading south out of LaCrosse. I think Paul told me at the time that their goal was to get each customer to spend $1.15 or some such on each visit. I’m sure that number has changed.
Working with John and Paul, we did a lot of off-the-wall radio ads which I hope contributed to their growth; at least Hanson and Stover liked them, as they kept ordering new ones. It was a time in the history of radio advertising where “creativity sold”, so we did whacky things like interviews with sandwiches. It was great fun to help create the spots, and work with the Kwik Trip and WIZM guys to bring them to life.
There weren’t that many stores back then, a few in LaCrosse and a few in Eau Claire, WI. Today there are over 400, with 10,000 employees, and the company is still privately held, and very generous with their employees, in regards to doling out profits and even some equity.
What’s remarkable about Kwik Trip is its vertical integration, which has done so well for the company that even the big guys have started to copy it. What vertical integration means is that you see a lot of Kwik Trip branded products in the store, across all segments, snacks, hot and cold food, dairy, frozen. Marketing this way enables a company to control quality, costs, and offer product at a lower margin than competitors.
Anyway, I’ve written about Kwik Trip a bit before, as I am fond of their truck stop in Tomah, Wi. They came to my attention today because they have announced they are building a half dozen new stores in my home town of Duluth-Superior.
They’ll be going up against the usual competitors, and some guys I went to prep school with who own a mini chain called Little Stores, but I am sure they will capture the hearts of Northlanders like they do everywhere they open.
Kwik Trip Convenience Stores