A Brief History of Kwik Star in Iowa

A Brief History of Kwik Star in Iowa

My second-favorite breakfast pizza box.

By Guest Post

May 5, 2023

You’d have to live under a rock to be unfamiliar with Kwik Star. Or, more realistically, you’d have to never leave your house.

With more than 500 stores in three Midwest states (Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin), Kwik Star/Kwik Trip is not only big in Iowa—it’s extraordinarily beloved.

A ‘Kwik’ History

Initially just a convenience store when it opened its first location in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in 1965, Kwik Trip added gasoline to its services five years later. By 1971, the retailer expanded to five stores, moved its headquarters to La Crosse, and built a distribution center.

Over the next decade, Kwik Trip expanded its corporate offices three times, its distribution center twice, and hit the 100 stores mark in 1986.

Why is it Kwik Star here, but Kwik Trip elsewhere?

When Kwik Trip went to open its first store in Iowa in 1993, there was already a chain of convenience stores called QuikTrip. To avoid confusion, Kwik Trip opened all Iowa locations under the name Kwik Star instead.

Other notable company “firsts” include:

  • 1997: Opened its first retail car wash
  • 1999: Merged its gas, grocery, and delivery departments to create its own transportation subsidiary
  • 2003: Introduced the famous “Glazer” [more on that below]
  • 2017: Acquired PDQ and its fresh fried chicken recipe
A Brief History of Kwik Star in Iowa
Kwik Trip’s Wikipedia page

What Most Kwik Star Fans Don’t Know

1. The company credits much of its success to its vertical integration business model.

Kwik Trip makes almost all of its products on-site at its 90-acre La Crosse campus.

At the Kwik Trip Dairy, workers churn the company’s own brand of ice cream, bottle their own milk, and even manufacture their own plastic jugs.

At the Kwik Trip Commissary, employees cook everything from soup and fried chicken to preparing fresh salads and pizza. These foods, along with all other inventory, are then delivered to the chain’s locations through the Kwik Trip Distribution Center, where the company’s own fleet of trucks bring products to each store on a daily basis.

Kwik Trip headquarters also houses a cigarette stamping and tobacco humidor, its own fleet maintenance shop, an ice plant, and a food safety lab. Click here for a photo tour inside the plant!

2. As of January, Kwik Trip is run by a trauma surgeon who left his job at the Mayo Clinic to run the company.

It’s not every day a doctor leaves the healthcare field to work at a convenience store, but on Jan. 1, 2023, Dr. Scott Zietlow did just that and succeeded his father, Don, as the second-generation president and CEO of Kwik Trip Inc. He’s now in charge of the company’s 36,000 employees, who work at more than 800 locations across six states.

Zietlow is carrying on his dad’s legacy of being among the few companies to offer an employee stock ownership plan and share 40% of its pretax profits with all workers.

3. The Glazer is Kwik Trip’s top-selling product.

Like all of the company’s baked goods, Kwik Trip’s famous donuts are made fresh daily at its La Crosse headquarters. The facility produces more than two million donuts every week, which breaks down to 24,000 Glazers every hour, or approximately 400 every minute.

Related: Power ranking Iowa’s gas station breakfast pizzas

Who came up with the name? According to Kwik Trip, an employee submitted the idea to the marketing team. And the rest is history!

Now, some people on TikTok are getting creative, and making Glazer Donut Breakfast Casseroles. Click here to watch.

A Brief History of Kwik Star in Iowa
Credit: Kwik Trip

America agrees: Kwik Trip is the No. 1 gas station.

Last year, Kwik Trip landed in the No. 1 spot on USA Today’s year-end Best Gas Station Brand List.

“In-store bakeries make more than dozen different items each day, and all milk sold gets bottled within 24 hours of reaching the Kwik Trip dairy,” the explanation read.

Kwik Trip wasn’t Iowa’s only representative on the list: Hy-Vee earned the #2 spot.

Written by Christina Lorey, originally for Up North News.

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