Making it Kwik


A long-awaited business opened its doors last November as the Eagle River Kwik Trip was welcomed to the community. Even Kwik Trip was excited about coming to Eagle River.

“Such a great community - such a beautiful area. We feel thankful and blessed to be in areas like Eagle River,” said Steve Wrobel, public relations for Kwik Trip.

Excitement was the word then and as it has settled into the locale, residents and tourists have been taking advantage of the perks offered by the new location.

In the past two years, there have been five new Kwik Trips opened in the area - two in Rhinelander, one in Minocqua and one in Arbor Vitae.

So what goes into selecting a new Kwik trip site? One of the criteria is that a location is within 250 to 300 mile of the home-base of LaCrosse. Kwik Trip produces its own dairy, bakery and kitchens, which make their soups, sandwiches, pizzas and salads. They also have their own distribution center that makes deliveries to every store every day to ensure the freshest food possible.

Other criteria for selecting a site are the requests they get from communities to open a store in their town. They do have a real estate department that scouts for new sites.

Stores are located in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa (where they are known as Kwik Star). All of the stores are owned by the Don Zietlow family, who now have their fourth generation actively working in the company.

A direct benefit to their customers is the result of their vertical integration system - from the field to the store. They are able to pass on great savings on such staples as milk, bread, butter and produce.

Unlike most gas station convenience stores, it is their mission to model their stores’ pricing after the old-fashioned corner grocery store. They offer basic groceries at good prices instead of taking huge markup prices for these items.

“We make it. We ship it. We sell it.” says  Wrobel.

Then there is their reputation for great employees and service.

“We really want people that are happy at work,” Wrobel said. “We’re looking for our mission of serving other people, that you enjoy that, and we are looking for people who have those core values of honesty integrity, excellence and work ethic. It makes it so much easier. Then we are putting them in a place where they can shine.” On average, employees see 1,800 people a day.

Training is not only dealing with the physical components of a store, they concentrate on developing the soft skills of customer service. They use computer based training modules as well as one-on-one training in the stores.

As a result of these hiring and training procedures, customers notice and let Kwik Trip know how well they were treated.

“We get contacts every day here - hundreds of them - thousands every year. When someone does compliment us we print it up and distribute it to the store. We reward the co-worker that was involved,” Wrobel described. “Maybe it will be something simple like calling and saying you forgot your credit card here.

“Sometimes it goes much deeper. Our co-workers will fix a flat tire. They will drive out of their way to return a sum of money or a phone that got left at the store.”

The Zietlows are, “Humble. They believe in giving back to the co-workers. They will say things like ‘It’s your company. Run your store like you own it,” said Wrobel.

And, he said, they back that statement up every year. All employees, which number 20,000 individuals, are given an annual bonus that is from a 40% share of pretax profits.

There is a full package of benefits available to full- and part-time employees.  Annually, there are 75 scholarships of $2,000  made available for both employees and their children.  A professional development reimbursement is also offered. There have been more than $2 million dollars distributed in scholarships.

Their modern, clean stations, welcoming staff, wide food and beverage choices and a fast gas fill at the pump are all designed to meet customer's needs quickly and at a fair price.

To learn more about what happens locally at the Eagle River Kwik Trip and more, see their Facebook page or their website.

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