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Kwik Trip plans further expansion in Northland

The Kwik Trip store on West Michigan Street in Duluth on a recent Thursday afternoon. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com1 / 4
The interior at the Kwik Trip store on West Michigan Street in Duluth on a recent Thursday afternoon. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 4
The interior of the Kwik Trip store on West Michigan Street in Duluth on a recent Thursday afternoon. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com3 / 4
The Kwik Trip store on West Michigan Street in Duluth on a recent Thursday afternoon. Clint Austin / News Tribune4 / 4

Although Kwik Trip has only one Northland store opening this year, the business is eyeing several locations for new stores in the coming years as it continues its expansion into the Northland.

"We're still looking in the Duluth area for a couple more locations, but where we want to go is just some tough spots," said Scott Teigen, vice president and chief financial officer at Kwik Trip.

Construction of a new store in Rice Lake is expected to begin in early June and it's slated to open by the end of October, Teigen said.

Kwik Trip is still pursuing a store location on Boundary Avenue in Duluth. If the company receives approval from the city of Duluth, that location would open in 2019, Teigen said.

The Boundary Avenue project raised controversy with neighbors last year and a rezoning request for the property didn't receive support from the Duluth City Council last June. However, in December the council approved a change to the property's designation from low-density residential to mixed-use neighborhood.

The Kwik Trip store on West Michigan Street in Duluth on a recent Thursday afternoon. Clint Austin / News Tribune

Kwik Trip began its expansion into the Northland in 2014, when it unveiled a plan to open 15 stores in the Twin Ports area in two years. "It's a good market ... nice area, good people," Teigen said.

As for pushing north into the Iron Range, Teigen said the company doesn't have any plans to expand that far. Kwik Trip's food is delivered to every store every day from La Crosse, Wis., and stores are kept within a designated radius to make those deliveries timely, he said.

"We can make Duluth. The Iron Range becomes a bit of a problem because of that. Then you have the distance from Duluth to the Iron Range, which is another hour. That's what puts the Iron Range a little bit out of the circle," Teigen said.

Eventually, the market will reach saturation, he said.

"It's going to be a long ways away before that would happen. We're roughly 625 stores now and we could probably double that in our market area, so that's room to grow," he said.

Holiday Stationstores merger

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. closed on its merger with multibillion-dollar, Minnesota-based Holiday Stationstores on Dec. 22 following a review by the Federal Trade Commission.

Following the review, Couche-Tard agreed to sell 10 stations, to a buyer or buyers approved by the FTC, within 120 days to preserve local competition. That includes stations in Hibbing, Aitkin and Hayward, among other communities, according to the FTC. Until the sale, the sites will be operated by Couche-Tard.

The Canadian convenience store giant has a network of more than 9,400 convenience stores in North America, with many stores using the Circle K brand name. Holiday has 522 company-operated and franchise locations in 10 states — including more than 40 locations in the Northland — as well as two food commissaries and a fuel terminal.

Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Couche-Tard, said the company is excited about the merger with Holiday.

"The Holiday assets are a strong strategic fit for our business and expands the corporation's reach to 48 of the 50 U.S. states. Adding the Holiday stores, commissaries and fuel terminal as well as its highly successful programs and employees pushes us further in our journey to become the world's preferred destination for convenience and fuel," Hannasch said in a statement.

Quebec-based Couche-Tard — French for "night owl" — said last year that it plans to keep Holiday's operational headquarters in Bloomington.

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