Kwik Trip is adding four new northwest Wisconsin locations to its fleet of stores in the region this fall. District Leader Layne Froehlich, who oversees operations in northern Wisconsin, reports the three stores in Ashland will open in August, October and December, with a fourth opening this November in Park Falls.
The first to open will be in the center of Ashland, next to Super One. A store on the east side will open next, with one on the west side opening last. Planning for the Ashland stores started approximately three years ago, when Kwik Trip began adding stores in the Twin Ports area.
“As soon as we started placing stations in the Twin Ports, people in the Ashland area asked when we were coming there,” Froehlich recalled.
Even then, company executives knew it was only a matter of time, citing a combination of reasons Ashland is an ideal market for Kwik Trip. This includes reviewing traffic counts, the high number of tourists in the region throughout the year, and the natural intersections of U.S. Highway 2 going to the east and west and State Highway 13 going to the north and south.
“The combination of these things make Ashland a logical location,” he explained. As for why they are doing three stores, “Our research shows there is the traffic to support it.”
This isn’t uncommon. Since Kwik Trip came to the Twin Ports, the company has opened 19 stores with several more in the works in Carlton and Hermantown. Multiple locations can be found in Duluth, Superior and Cloquet.
The family owned company has a long history in Wisconsin. The first store opened during 1965 in Eau Claire. Today, they employ more than 18,000 people throughout the Midwest at their 400+ stores, warehouses and corporate offices. The company is often recognized as a top place to work, in part due to its benefits package and profit sharing program. Froehlich said those perks help them attract and retain quality employees.
“As the economy gets better, it becomes an interesting hiring market. But, we are finding that employees are seeking a good benefits package, which is what we offer to both full and part-time employees.”
The company completed its first round of job fairs for their first Ashland location last spring. Froehlich said they had more than 300 applicants for the first location, and of that they hired 40 employees. They are currently starting to hire for the second and third locations. In total, he anticipates a $20 million investment within Ashland.
Ashland Chamber of Commerce Director Mary McPhetridge said she isn’t surprised that Kwik Trip was attracted to the area.
“Ashland has a long-term sustainable economy. Over the years, when we’ve seen one segment of the economy struggle, other segments lifted us up. We are resilient and I think that makes us an attractive area for businesses to invest in.”
The company is already looking for ways to invest in the region beyond buildings and payroll.
“We are a community oriented company that is heavily involved in the communities we are located,” Froehlich said. “We’re always members of the chamber and seek out special projects. The community shops at our store, and we give back to them.”
McPhetridge said she’s already noticed this when interfacing with the company.
“They are a company that practices what they preach,” she said. “I’ve heard so many positive things about the culture of Kwik Trip. From the corporate offices to the locals they are hiring, everyone seems so passionate and excited about their job. I just think that is a good sign about what’s to come.”
Beth Probst is a freelance writer based in Iron River.