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Kwik Trip CEO Don Zietlow Reflects on Chain's 50th Year

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Kwik Trip Inc. is marking 50 years and preparing to bring the company to the century mark, guided by the next generation.

President and CEO Don Zietlow said Kwik Trip has grown larger than he ever expected when it began five decades ago — reaching $4.8 billion in sales last year. The second and third generations of the Zietlow family are committed to ushering Kwik Trip through the next 50 years, according to a report by the La Crosse Tribune.

Zietlow's remarks came during the retail chain's 50th-anniversary celebration at Kwik Trip's support center on July 10. Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Reps. Jill Billings and Lee Nerison, La Crosse Common Council President Dick Swantz and Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen were also on hand for the festivities. 

According to the retailer's website, the first Kwik Trip convenience store opened in Eau Claire, Wis., in 1965. Five years later, Kwik Trip added gasoline sales to that store. Kwik Trip expanded its reach to La Crosse — the town it calls home — and grew its portfolio to five stores in 1971.

In 1972, Zietlow and John Hansen established ownership positions and it remained jointly owned until the Zietlow family bought the Hansen family's interest in 2000.

Today, Kwik Trip operates more than 450 locations in three states: Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.

"The [50th] anniversary means a lot," Zietlow said during Friday's celebration. "When we started Kwik Trip, I thought maybe we would get to 50 stores and that would be the max."

The retailer's keys to success include the best people, clean stores with clean bathrooms, and the best service.

Expansion beyond the three states will be a decision left to the next generation, according to Zietlow.

"I think that's going to be up to the grandchildren. We think we can put another 450 stores in our three states where we operate. After that, I think we'll have an opportunity if we want to go to Sioux Falls [South Dakota] or Omaha [Nebraska], or someplace like that," he said.

Zietlow told employees and reporters at Friday's ceremony that he, his wife LaVonne and their family "thank God for the blessings that he has bestowed upon Kwik Trip for the last 50 years. I also want to thank our 15,000 co-workers for all you do every day. I also want to thank our 6 million guests that come into our stores every week."

According to the news report, Zietlow also said "Kwik Trip is in good hands with the second and third generations" of the Zietlow family. "They are committed to sharing 40 percent of the pretax profits [with co-workers as the company does now] going forward. And they are committed to taking your company forward for another 50 years."

Zietlow is this year's retailer inductee into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame.

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