Kwik Star is booming
Company opens new stores in Fort Dodge
Kwik Star has increased its presence in Fort Dodge by adding three convenience stores in the area within the past year.
In February, a Kwik Trip Express was added at the corner of Second Avenue North and 15th Street. The name was later changed to Tobacco Outlet Plus Grocery, but ownership and everything inside the store remained the same.
Then in October, a Kwik Trip full-size convenience store opened along the city’s Corridor of Commerce at 3121 Fifth Ave. S, on the east side of Fort Dodge.
Most recently, the company opened another full-size convenience store at 1606 S. Triton Drive. That store is on the west side of Fort Dodge, near Iowa Central Community College.
For the La Crosse, Wisconsin-based company, these developments align with its overall business plan.
“We know that for success in today’s business world, to stand still means you will fall behind,” Steve Wrobel, spokesman for Kwik Trip and Kwik Star, said. “It’s always been part of our business model to grow when opportunities present themselves.”
The company typically looks for locations that can be reached daily from its headquarters in Wisconsin.
“Our business model is unique in that we deliver fresh product from our home base in La Crosse every day,” Wrobel said. “Because of that, it has to be within a certain radius from our home base.”
In La Crosse, the the company has its own bakery, dairy, kitchens, and a fleet of trucks ready to deliver the goods.
That results in fresh milk, bread, and other products for customers, he said.
“We are able to hold our costs down and pass those savings and value on to our customers,” Wrobel said. “This is what allows us to compete with some of the larger chains and big box stores that are out there.”
Fort Dodge, which is about a 4-hour drive from the headquarters, has been a nice fit for the company’s distribution plan.
“Fort Dodge is an attractive market,” Wrobel said. “It’s within our distribution system and it’s more efficient for us to open more than just one store. If we are going to a full-size delivery, it is more cost effective to fill a truck. That’s why you will find that we are opening up a couple stores within a close time-frame. It boils down to fitting our business model and serving a community.”
Wrobel added, “The term we use internally is vertical integration and we define that as we make it, we ship it, we sell it — and that is a key component of our company.”
So far, business has been booming, according to its store leaders in Fort Dodge.
“From day one, even during the soft opening, we were hit hard,” Isaiah Nazario, assistant store leader at the Fifth Avenue South store, said. “We sell a lot of product. We appeal to everyone.”
Nazario added, “Our sales have been steady. People on this side of town don’t want to travel on the other side of town.”
He said for the most part, business is fairly steady throughout the day, but the company has what it calls red-zone times.
“That’s when you score the most,” Nazario said. “Those times vary day to day.”
During red-zone times, employees are asked to stay near the cash registers and the coffee bar.
Regardless of the time of day, two employees are on the registers at all times.
Nazario began his career with Kwik Star in Iowa Falls as a part-timer.
Initially, it was an opportunity to help him pay for college. But he was given advancement opportunity.
“It’s turned from a job to pay for college to a career,” Nazario said.
The transition to Fort Dodge has been smooth.
“The store I was in last time had the same layout as this one,” Nazario said. “It was just flipped.”
His favorite aspect of the job is helping others and getting to know customers.
“I went to school for criminal justice,” he said. ” I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s the five minutes a day seeing several different people. We want to make those five minutes make someone’s day. I’ve made so many new friends and regulars here.”
In terms of product, the hot food program has taken off.
“Food is our future,” Nazario said.
Specialty sandwiches, pizza, and burritos, are just a few of the items customers have available to them.
Every Wednesday a different sandwich is on sale for $1 each.
Nazario said the made-ready subs are also popular.
“We have a roast beef sandwich with bacon, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese,” he said.
One particular item Nazario considers unique is bagged milk.
“That is something more commonly seen in Canada,” he said. “I personally have not seen too many other stores with it. It wasn’t until I started working for Kwik Star. I don’t know what it is, you get a richer, smoother taste out of it. Especially the chocolate milk.”
He added, “It’s the same product. That bag of milk or jug, it’s two totally different tastes.”
Nazario said the plastic jugs cost more to produce, so as a result the product is more expensive.
“The jugs we do make ourselves,” he said. “We have our own eggs, butter. Flavored waters, lemonade. Breads, buns. Fresh bread comes into the store every day.”
The store’s ice cream was recognized at the 2016 World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest, finishing with a second place finish for its Nature’s Touch frozen yogurt, black raspberry flavor.
Outside of the store, mutliple gas pumps, two diesel pumps, and a car wash are available to customers.
At the Triton Drive location, Aaron Jones, the store leader, said the opening has gone well.
“We have been very busy,” Jones said. “We are glad to be open and glad to be here.”
The sandwiches have been hot sellers.
“Our cheeseburgers and our chicken sandwiches,” he said. “Our fresh case. We make all of our own salads.”
Prior to working for Kwik Star, Jones worked for Menards in Fort Dodge.
Jones, who said he has lived in Fort Dodge most of his life, said he also trained in Iowa Falls before moving up.
He enjoys coming to work every day.
“We call ourselves a family here and we really are,” he said.
He and the store’s team are focused on keeping a sready steam of products ready for customers.
According to Jones, the company has a guarantee that they never run out of anything on the shelves.
To maintain that can be a challenge.
“We work hard to keep that promise,” he said.
Another Kwik Star convenience store is set to open Jan. 10 in Webster City. It will be located at 505 Fairmeadow Drive.
Differences in the stores
The Tobacco Outlet Plus Grocery has a smaller footprint than the company’s standard.
It doesn’t have a full range of hot foods like you’d find at the full-size convenience stores, but it has ready to eat, “grab-n-go” items.
The company operates about 40 Tobacco Outlet Plus Grocery stores.
More about Kwik Star
Kwik Star has about 80 store locations in Iowa.
The Wisconsin-based company operates Kwik Trip stores in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Its locations are called Kwik Star in Iowa to avoid confusion with the Oklahoma-based QuikTrip.
The company is one of the fastest-growing convenience stores in the nation.
Kwik Star plans to open about 10 new stores in Iowa within the coming year, according to Wrobel.
Company-wide there are about 650 stores.