To say retail is in Kyle Krause’s blood is only part of the story.
Convenience retailing, serving fresh food to the community, and giving back is all part of Krause’s DNA. And more importantly, it is part of his legacy as he builds onto what his grandfather and father started before him.
Krause was named president of Kum & Go LC, a family-owned chain founded more than 60 years ago, in 1997. From 2004 to 2020, he served as chairman and CEO. Under his leadership, Kum & Go grew to employ more than 4,700 associates and became the fifth-largest privately held, company-operated convenience store chain in the United States.
Krause is also the founder of Krause Group, the parent company of not only Kum & Go, but also Solar Transport, an Iowa-based refined fuel transporter; the Des Moines Menace, a League Two soccer team; renowned wineries Vietti and Enrico Serafino in Italy; and more.
For his dedication to the convenience store industry and his contributions to advancing the channel, Krause is the 2021 retailer inductee into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. He is the third offspring of a previous Hall of Fame member to be inducted, as his late father, William “Bill” Krause, was welcomed into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
A Family Business
“Fifteen years ago, my dad was selected into this Hall of Fame, and rightfully so. It is nice to be able to fill those shoes and carry that on,” Krause said during the 35th annual CSNews Hall of Fame awards gala, held Nov. 11 in Kum & Go’s hometown of Des Moines.
Noting that he is fortunate to be part of a family business, Krause shared that his grandfather opened a fruit and vegetable store in Iowa 100 years ago and today, the family is still "lucky enough" to be selling healthy food to Iowans.
"It's a real pleasure to be able to work with family, and to be able to do that as part of a family business is enjoyable to me," he said, pointing out that he had the opportunity at the start of this year to transition to serving only as CEO of Krause Group because his son, Tanner, was "more than ready" to take the reins as the new CEO of Kum & Go.
"As a family business, we are lucky that, in some ways, we can do what we want to do. I am really proud of what our businesses do around corporate responsibility, around diversity, equity and inclusion, and we try to be philanthropic," Krause said. "As a family, we have been blessed and part of that is how we give back for those blessings."
Introducing Krause at the 2021 Hall of Fame awards gala, Greg Parker, founder and CEO of Parker's and the 2020 Retailer Hall of Fame inductee, pointed out how his ascent within the c-store industry was different — and perhaps simpler — than Krause’s rise.
"Success is built in many different ways, and my way is very different than your way, and I am not sure which is harder," Parker said. "For me, my success was built on insecurity, if I am going to be honest with myself, and fear of failure. I was able to persevere and do things that made us a very successful company in this industry that I admire.
"You had something that I think was even more of a struggle. You had to live up to what your father had achieved," he told Krause. "I think what you did might be even more important because you had to instill this vision in your team; you had to create followers who were willing to follow you, and to evolve the company your father started."
Parker also acknowledged the younger Krause's philanthropic endeavors, lauding him for creating a legacy for both his family and his local community.
Krause Group donates 10 percent of its profits each year to charitable causes, and members of the senior leadership team led by Krause serve on various community boards as well.
He currently gives his time to numerous boards throughout the Greater Des Moines community, including the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and Des Moines Art Center. Nationally, he serves the National Gallery of Art as both a trustee council member and chair of the Contemporary Collectors Committee.
An Early Start
With Kum & Go being a family-run organization since its founding, Krause always knew he was going to follow in the footsteps of the generations before him.
“I remember telling my dad that ‘of course’ I was going to work at Kum & Go with my father and grandfather,” the newest Hall of Famer recounted to CSNews.
Like many of his colleagues in family businesses, Krause got his foot in the door at an early age — 9 years old, to be exact. That starting age has actually become a family tradition.
“I started working in our business when I was 9 years old, and I have worked in Kum & Go all of my life,” he said. “All of my kids started working in the stores at the age of 9 also. I now have two grandchildren; I guess the 3-year-old will be working for us in six short years.”
Had he not become a convenience retailer, Krause likely would have followed one of his other passions in other industries. The range of companies within the Krause Group reflect the various areas he is passionate about.
In fact, the CSNews Hall of Fame is not the first Hall of Fame he has been inducted into. In 2011, he was inducted into the United Soccer League’s Hall of Fame for his many contributions to the sport. In addition to the Des Moines Menace, Krause Group last year acquired a controlling stake in the Italian Serie A soccer team, Parma Calcio 1913.
Changing With the Times
With 50 years of experience in convenience retailing now, Krause has long realized that convenience is an industry of change, so retailers need to keep changing.
“Local and world events can impact our business as we serve so many different needs with fuel, food and convenience products,” he said. “Supply chain, labor market, global oil prices and innovation all require us to keep changing.”
Along with overcoming challenges, his career has come with many other rewards. Foremost among them is getting to work with his family.
“I was fortunate enough to work with my father for a long time. I also had the pleasure of working with my grandfather, who worked full-time for many years after I got out of college,” Krause recalled.
Having his son take over as CEO of Kum & Go is certainly another reward. On Jan. 1, 2021, Krause transitioned out of the role of CEO of the retail chain and passed the torch to his son Tanner Krause, who had served as president under his father.
According to Krause, the decision to make that transition was easy. “Tanner and I are a lot alike. We both care about our people. Handing over the reins to a family member who you know wants the same things you want was not hard to do,” he said.
Still, this doesn’t mean he is ready for retirement — not by a long shot.
“I am not slowing down. I had been CEO of both Kum & Go and Krause Group. Now, I am only the CEO of Krause Group, [which] has 11 companies,” he explained. “The transition was more about giving Kum & Go what it deserves.”
In addition to Tanner, Krause is blessed to have many other family members involved in the businesses, including his son Oliver, his son-in-law, and one of his nephews.
“I am very proud of working in and growing a multi-generational company,” he said.
So, what is ahead for Kum & Go? “Continued change and evolution is ahead,” Krause said. “We look at Kum & Go as a business to manage generationally. As a family, we look at what it may look like for the next generation. Evolution is necessary for that.”