Kwik Way Slows to a Halt

"Aging" 11-store Montana chain sold off to several companies for rebranding

BILLINGS, Mont. -- All 11 Kwik Way Inc. convenience stores in the Billings, Mont., area will be closed by Saturday night, reported the Associated Press. Owner Theresa Jenkins said it was difficult for the chain to compete with larger corporations, she and other longtime employees are ready to retire and her children are not interested in taking over the business her parents started in 1964.

As reported Friday in a CSP Daily News Flash, Jenkins said some of the closed Kwik Way locations will reopen under other brand names, including two that will become 3-G convenience [image-nocss] stores and one that will become a Cono-Mart Superstore. Talks are ongoing to have some other Kwik Way stores to reopen as Cono-Marts, she told The Billings Gazette.

Calls to Cono-Mart Superstores and 3-Gs Convenience Stores, both based in Billings, were not returned by presstime.

Konrad and the late Charlean Keller opened the first Kwik Way in April 1964. Now the "big is better" trend has really started hurting smaller businesses, Jenkins told the newspaper. "After 45 years, we are the oldest and the smallest convenience store chain," she said. "The large guys aren't interested in the little guys anymore. It's 'how many pumps do you have out front?' "

And despite last summer's record-high gas prices, Jenkins said her profit margin was zero, at best. "When half your business is gas and you're losing money on those sales, that doesn't work," she said. "There has been some predatory pricing in our market, selling below cost, because they have other revenue from gambling."

The Kwik Way name has been around so long that for 30 years the business has been the only tenant at 815 E. Main in Laurel, Mont. Clarence and Naomi Foos own the land and building. They built the store for the Kellers in 1979, the report said.

Kwik Way's lease was up this summer, and the Foos family had already put the land up for sale.
On Thursday, Jenkins started touring the town to give her 60 employees the news. After Jenkins told the employees-who wear the Kwik Way uniform of blue polo shirts with red collars and the "Your good neighbor" logo-that their store would close at 11:00 p.m. Saturday, they put up a hand-lettered sign advertising a "buy-one-get-one-free" sale for the next three days. The sale applies to everything except pop, beer and wine.

"That's what we've tried to be all these years is a good neighbor, including helping dozens of groups from Mayfair, to the Boys & Girls Clubs and Little League," Jenkins said.