Kwik Trip expansion in Twin Ports area is underway
So where are all those Kwik Trip stores we were promised?
“We’ll start one every two weeks,” said Scott Teigen, the Wisconsin-based company’s vice president and chief financial officer. Construction of a Kwik Trip store usually takes four months, he said.
Along with the 24-hour stores will come about 300 jobs. A regional Kwik Trip training center has been set up in Superior as hiring gets underway.
First up will be a store at Tower Avenue and North 28th Street in Superior, which is scheduled to open in late August; other openings will follow one at a time, said Layne Froehlich, Kwik Trip’s district leader.
In Superior, additional Kwik Trip stores will open along U.S. Highways 2 and 53 near the Nemadji River, and at Belknap Street and Banks Avenue.
In Duluth, stores are coming to the 4200 block of Grand Avenue and the corner of Michigan Street and 27th Avenue West.
In Hermantown, a store will be built at Miller Trunk Highway and Sugar Maple Drive. And, if the deal works out, a store will go in front of Menards on Miller Trunk Highway. A store at Minnesota Highway 45 and Interstate 35 in Scanlon likely will be last, Teigen said.
More stores in 2015
That’s just the first wave.
Teigen has been part of the team working on the property acquisitions, contracts, permits and variances, and tedious negotiations needed to build Kwik Trip stores in the Twin Ports area. He’s now working on the next round of six or seven stores to open in 2015, bringing with them in excess of 200 additional jobs.
So far, the 2015 store list includes: Central Entrance and South Arlington Avenue in Duluth where an ICO Convenience Plus station has closed; Grand Avenue and Raleigh Street in West Duluth; U.S. Highways 2 and 53 and 21st Avenue East, a former BP site next to Culver’s in Superior; and Minnesota Highway 33 and North Road next to Gordy’s Hi-Hat in Cloquet.
The stores will mark Kwik Trip’s dramatic entry into the Twin Ports market.
However, some sites have been too expensive for Kwik Trip, such as the BlueStone Commons mixed use development, just east of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.
“We’ve never been able to close the gap there on that price,” Teigen said. “It’s just too expensive for us right now. We can’t pay what they’re asking for.”
Teigen would like to see a Kwik Trip at the old Burger King site on the corner of London Road and 21st Avenue East in Duluth. But he said that developer also wants more than what Kwik Trip is willing to pay. Moreover, building on the rock-based site poses extra challenges.
The popular convenience store chain based in La Crosse, Wis., has about 400 stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. It’s known for its fresh produce, fresh bakery and dairy that’s trucked daily from its headquarters, warehouse and kitchens in La Crosse. Its milk comes direct from the company’s farm, delivering milk to the stores just 24 to 36 hours after it comes from the cows.
The stores, which generally are 5,800 square feet in size, offer fresh sandwiches made on-site as well as hot foods, including fresh pizza, cheeseburgers, soups and a breakfast line cooked in the stores’ kitchens.
“We’re a convenience store that’s a cross between a grocery store, fast food operation and a coffee shop,” Froehlich said.
While the family-owned company is opening 34 stores this year, at an average cost of $5 million per store, its biggest push is north to the Duluth-Superior area.
By 2016, Teigen said they’ll have 15 stores in the market. They’ll have created more than 500 jobs and spent $75 million to do it.
Give him five years and Teigen says Kwik Trip could have 20 stores extending from Duluth south to Hinckley or Pine City.
That’s the greater Twin Ports-area market, he said.
So why the Twin Ports?
It’s a good market, says Teigen. And because Kwik Trip delivers fresh foods to its stores daily, trucking the food to a group of stores in an area is more cost-effective than delivering to just a few. And advertising for 15 stores costs the same as advertising for one, he explained.
A series of job fairs are being held to hire the hundreds of employees needed for the new stores. To train them, a Kwik Trip regional office and training center is opening this week at the Superior Business Center. The space has classrooms, a full commercial kitchen and a partial mock store with registers.
“As we bring on new employees, they go through five weeks of training,” Froehlich said. “After three weeks in school, they go to our Spooner and Rice Lake stores for live training.”
The positions include kitchen workers, counter staff, management trainees and maintenance for three shifts. Starting pay is $9.50 or more, depending on experience, with regular raises, a medical plan and profit sharing, he said.
Kwik Trip’s planned stores
* Grand Avenue and 42nd Avenue West
* Michigan Street and 27th Avenue West
* Miller Trunk Highway and Sugar Maple Drive
* Miller Trunk Highway near Arrowhead Road
* Tower Avenue and North 28th Street
* U.S. Highways 2 and 53 near Nemadji River
* Belknap Street and Banks Avenue
* Minnesota Highway 45 and Interstate 35
* Central Entrance and Arlington Avenue
* Grand Avenue and Raleigh Street
* Minnesota Highway 33 and North Road
* U.S. Highways 2 and 53 and 21st Avenue East
*Two or three more locations are expected in 2015.
Kwik Trip job fairs
A series of job fairs are being held to hire about 300 people for the eight Kwik Trip stores opening this year in Duluth, Superior, Hermantown and Scanlon. Each fair runs Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
June 24-25: Country Inn and Suites, 4257 Haines Road, Hermantown
July 8-9: Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Conference Center, 600 N. 21st St., Superior
July 29-30: Hampton Inn, 310 Canal Park Drive, Duluth
Aug. 12-13: Country Inn and Suites, 4257 Haines Road, Hermantown