Not far out from Dubuque, Iowa, the legendary “Field of Dreams” baseball diamond welcomes 65,000 visitors each year.
Carved out of a pristine cornfield for a movie set, the site has been maintained as a tourist destination for the past 25 years. There, the fantasy of old-time baseball players returning to the field lives on.
Nearby, Kwik Trip has built its own “Field of Dreams.” We recently completed our second Kwik Star convenience store in Dubuque, which we celebrated with a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony in late July. The store is our 415th store, and the 48th in Iowa.
While “Shoeless” Joe Jackson may not set foot on the premises, Kwik Trip coworkers certainly agree with the movie’s theme, “If you build it, they will come.”
They are our customers—or, as we know them at Kwik Trip, guests.
We expect this store to match, if not exceed, our other Dubuque store, which serves about 17,000 guests a week. Building a new store is a total team effort. It’s a process being replayed for each of the more than 30 stores we plan to build this year.
Every new Kwik Trip store begins with careful site selection. For the most part, we know what sites we want to acquire well ahead of time. The existing businesses there may not know that yet, but we are always on the lookout for sites that maximize our impact in the community.
As one of the most vertically integrated chains in the industry, Kwik Trip builds its own stores from the ground up. This includes in-house co-workers who oversee the civil engineering, architectural renderings and site designs to meet all local building codes. We even employ our own carpenters.
Construction is managed on an extremely tight schedule. For the new Dubuque store, excavation began March 10. With a turnover date in mid-July, that’s only 18 weeks from start to finish.
“By having nearly everything under our own control, we have achieved a streamlined process that leaves virtually nothing to chance, except maybe the weather,” says Brad Fry, who heads up retail construction for Kwik Trip. “You can just sense the ownership and pride.”
Kwik Trip co-workers also take pride in the fact that new stores incorporate the latest in sustainability construction techniques. Energy-efficient LED lighting conserves energy use in the fuel canopy and cooler doors. Kwik Trip uses 50% or more Forest Stewardship Council Certified Lumber and recycles 75% or more of its own construction waste. Concrete parking lots use less lighting and produce less heat than asphalt. All this translates into Kwik Trip receiving numerous awards from the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Years ago, Kwik Trip stores had white vinyl siding and looked almost like ranch-style homes. Today, decorative brickwork, large windows and attractive green metal roofing present a solid, stately alternative.
CONTINUED: Setting Up & Opening the Doors
The interior of the building is equally crafted to meet the changing needs of the c-store industry. Foodservice at Kwik Trip used to mean a roller grill and a few cold sandwiches behind cooler doors. Not so any more.
The Dubuque location is a 5,000-square-foot corner grocery store, with a modern kitchen and cooler and freezer space to accommodate our extensive foodservice program. Just inside the front doors, Hot Spot warmers filled with Kwik Trip’s proprietary Cheese Mountain pizza slices and Kitchen Cravings sandwiches catch the eye. Attractive wood fixtures in the Karuba coffee bar, produce endcaps and bakery cases convey a quality that matches the freshness of the product. Fresh bratwurst, steaks, hot dogs and chicken breasts are featured in a two-door endcap cooler.
Healthy alternatives such as fresh salads, whole fruit and parfaits are in an open fresh case. Kwik Trip is a destination for milk and bread, and of course bananas, which retail for just 38 cents a pound.
We have a very detailed and hands-on approach in our planning. Everyone has a voice; it’s never just one person. Our entire management team and category management co-workers are devoted to attractive, eye-appealing displays with the goal of serving our guests better while making the layout more convenient for our 10,000 retail co-workers.
As construction work comes to an end and the store opening date approaches, a flurry of activity continues. Kwik Trip’s team of IT retail system co-workers descends on the store to install registers and test credit-card readers at the dispensers. Marketing then sets up signage and advertising for grand opening specials.
Opening the Doors
The ribbon cutting itself is a time of celebration. It’s “All hands on deck” for the store’s co-workers, and even ones from neighboring stores help. In addition to words of thanks from the store leader, we present a generous check to a local charity or community project. It’s Kwik Trip’s way of saying in advance, “Thank you for your support!”
Site location, superior construction, sustainability, great values, quality products: All are essential in the successful process of opening a new Kwik Trip.
Is anything missing? Just one thing, and it’s the most important piece: people. It’s guests of every age and background who come through the doors every day. And it’s co-workers willing to serve their needs. Kwik Trip owner Don Zietlow says, “Our co-workers are our No. 1 asset. Without our people, the best buildings, the best systems and the best products wouldn’t really matter.”
Co-workers making a difference by serving people: That’s the Kwik Trip “Field of Dreams.”
Steve Loehr is vice president of support center operations for La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip convenience stores. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a CSP member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.