Montana Kwik Way Closes Doors

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Montana Kwik Way Closes Doors

BILLINGS, Mont. -- The legacy of selling gas and convenience items for 45 years came to an end Saturday for the 11-unit Kwik Way convenience chain here, the Billings Gazette reported.

Second-generation chain owner Theresa Jenkins told the paper the previous summer, with its high gas prices and low margins, was difficult.

"When half your business is gas and you're losing money on those sales, that doesn't work," she told the paper. "There has been some predatory pricing in our market, selling below cost, because they have other revenue from gambling."

During that time, she let inventories fall while she determined a plan for the stores. Her children weren't interested in taking over, and the "bigger is better" trend had really started hurting smaller businesses, she said.

"After 45 years, we are the oldest and the smallest convenience-store chain," Jenkins told the paper. "The large guys aren't interested in the little guys anymore. It's 'how many pumps do you have out front?'"

Kwik Way began in April 1964 with Jenkins’ parents, Konrad and the late Charlean Keller, opened the first Kwik Way.

The owner of the property and building for a Laurel, Mont., Kwik Way, was not surprised by the move.

"Last Friday, I drove by about 1 p.m. and it was still open. Then about 5 p.m., my son called, saying, 'Did you know Kwik Way has closed?'" Naomi Foos told the paper. "And that was it."

Jenkins started touring the area Thursday to give her 60 employees the news.

Susan Belcher, who worked at a Kwik Way nearly five months, said she'll have to find another job. "I'm just sorry to see the store go," she told the Gazette.

Upon learning of the closure, employees posted hand-lettered signs advertising a "buy-one-get-one-free" sale for the next three days, which applied to all store items except pop, beer and wine, according to the report.

The stores will live on under other names, though, with two becoming 3-G convenience stores and others as Cono-Mart Super Stores.