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Kiddie Kwik Trip

Wis. retailer designs, builds scaled-down c-store for children's museum

LACROSSE, Wis. -- Earlier this month, the Children's Museum of La Crosse, Wis., opened a new permanent exhibita miniature Kwik Trip convenience store and gas station.

Gary Gonczy, director of marketing and advertising for the LaCrosse-based retailer, told CSP Daily News, We built a store very similar in looks to our [real] stores, and made it kidproof, and smaller, and we put some educational exercise into it. Every shelf has a photograph of the product that goes there, so they can match it up with where it belongs. And the kids can actually scan and [image-nocss] ring up merchandise. It's a real scanner, he said. So we use real packaging; we just take the product out of it.

Outside, on a carpeted blacktop, there are several vintage gas pump replicas (modern dispenser replicas are in the works) and mini-cars. The outside looks very similar to a Kwik Trip, but the doors are kid sized. In store, there is a drinks section, with cooler doors that have no glass in them, but which can open; there is a fresh foods section with plastic sandwiches and salads; there is a cappuccino machine that makes brewing noises, as well as airpots; and there is a bakery with plastic donuts, muffins and breads.

We paid for [the exhibit] and built it ourselves. We worked with our architect, who did the drawings. Our construction crews built it, as if we were building a store, said Gonczy. Even the murala city skylinewas done by our graphic artist.

Anne Steuer, the museum's executive director, said, The Kwik Trip Exhibit came about mostly because similar exhibits have proven to be very popular at other children's Museums, and we have wanted to do one for quite awhile.Thesestore' exhibitsoffer a wide variety of hands-on interactive components.

She added, One of thegreat things about an exhibit of this type is the wide age range it appeals to. Two year olds are happy just to put items in a cart or basket and the four and five year olds like to get a list and match items.... The older kids are thrilled to use the scanner and cash register. There is a lot of role playing with who will shop and who will check out.

And the gas is always free, she quipped.

Gary and I first talked about the idea six or seven years ago, but were finally able to move forward with a plan this year, said Steuer. It was a wonderful collaborative effort, and one of the best exhibit design/build experiences we have had to date.

Kwik Trip will continue to make a monetary donation each year for the museum to maintain the exhibit, she said. They are also willing to work with us to repair or change anything that isn't working well. Children are very hard on exhibits. Maintenance is a big issue for all children's museums, and we are thrilled that Kwik Trip took so much time designing for the kids, and that they are willing to continue helping us out.

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