Kwik Trip

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Kwik Trip, Inc. is a family-owned convenience and gasoline station chain. It is based in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and owned by the Zietlow family. The company has over 400 locations in the Midwest, operating in Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota and in the northeastern area of Iowa, there known as Kwik Star. Kwik Trip has an integrated business model, producing, packaging and shipping its own products. It has a 40% profit-sharing system for staff as well as a real estate ownership program, instituted by one of the founders and eventual whole owner, Don Zietlow.[1]

The company was founded in 1971 in LaCrosse, WI, by Don Zietlow and John Hanson. As of 2011, it has 9,800 employees. The ownership of Kwik Trip was transferred to Don Zietlow's children: Scott, Vicky Kunz and Steve, who heads the petroleum division of Kwik Trip. Much of Kwik Trip's real estate, including all of the stores, is owned by a limited partnership, Convenience Store Investments, with long-term Kwik Trip employees as shareholders.[2] In 2010, the company had $3.4 billion in sales and its net income was $70 million. Kwik Trip announced a three-year growth plan in December 2010 that calls for a continuation of its 20-store-per-year expansion.

Kwik Trip, Inc.
Type Gasoline, Food Production and Shipping
Founded 1971
Headquarters LaCrosse, WI
Number of locations Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa
Revenue $3.4 billion

Protests and Boycotts in Wisconsin

After Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill passed on March 10, 2011, attention turned to the Governor's campaign donors. Kwik Trip and its Executives were one of Walker's biggest collective supporters, giving $13,558.[3] In early March, several hundred protesters showed up in front of the main downtown M&I location in Wisconsin's capital, Madison. Teachers, firefighters and policemen called for union members to discontinue use of the store for their support of Walker's bill that strips unions of all bargaining rights and make severe cuts to public programs like public schools and state-provided health care.[4]

The letter that was sent to CEO Scott Tiegen from union leaders can be seen here: [Letter to Kwik Trip 0311wppawkwiktrip.pdf‎]

Political Involvement

Kwik Trip contends it is a not affiliated with any political group. Steve Loehr said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog that "This isn't necessarily partisan. Loehr, who expressed affection for conservative Democrats, says Kwik Trip is careful not to favor particular candidates or parties. It tells no one how to vote." And political donations have gone to both Republican and Democratic candidates in the past. But, the company and its executives have not hidden the fact from employees that politics is important for the company's well being. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote in 2010 about a program the Kwik Trip had employees take.

"An election is coming, and the company that Steve Loehr works for is preparing, even though its business isn't politics. Kwik Trip, the La Crosse-based operator of about 350 gas-and-convenience stores in three states, is affected very much by what politicians do. It is explaining this to employees."That's what our democracy is all about," said Loehr, Kwik Trip's vice president of operations support, "and we shouldn't stand by and complain if we haven't gotten involved." Kwik Trip has some new help in doing this: A program offered by the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, which is a branch of the nonpartisan but conservative group, Americans for Prosperity. The program, Prosperity 101, offers booklets, speakers and online classes whereby companies can brief employees on the basics of economics and politics. Linda Hansen, who heads the network, put together the program, which amounts to a defense of free enterprise. The economic parts of the booklet, written by the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore and businessman Herman Cain, is stuffed with charts about budgets and the Laffer Curve. The latter half is a nonpartisan civics lesson."[5]

Political Contributions

The 2010 elections in Wisconsin and the results of Governor Scott Walker's budget bill passing has brought suspicion on companies and their executives who supported Walker's campaign. Employees and executives of Kwik Trip donated to both sides of the aisle, but their executive contributions to Scott Walker has landed them in hot water with union members. In March, 2011, union leaders sent a letter to the company asking them to publicly come out against Walker's Budget Repair Bill or a boycott would ensue. Kwik Trip's Communications Director, John McHugh, said there would be no response.

The Wisconsin Democracy Network shows all Wisconsin political contributions by employees of Kwik Trip.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reports that, in 2010, non-executive employees gave $17,436.78 to candidates.

Executives and Their Political Contributions

  • Donald P. Zietlow: Founder - According the the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Zietlow family has contributed over $80,000 to Wisconsin political campaigns since 1993, including over $6,000 to Scott Walker's campaign for governor. It has also previously made some contributions to some Democrats. The Zietlows have spent over $100,000 on federal donations to PACs, parties, and candidates in the past two decades, including over $40,000 to the NACS. Kwik Trip is also listed as a "leading" contributer to the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation. They also sponsors several community charities.
  • Scott Teigen: CEO - Gave $450 to Walker for his gubernatorial campaign and $250 to Republican PACs.[6]
  • John McHugh: Director Corporate Communications and Leadership Development - Gave $160 to Scott Walker's Campaign.[7]
  • Steve Loehr: Vice President of Operations - According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Loehr family has donated over $17,000 to Wisconsin political campaigns since 2000, including over $3500 since 2009 to Scott Walker, as well as donations to J.B. Van Hollen and to "the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate" and other candidates. Steve Loehr has contributed a relatively small amount to some Democrats and committees. Federally, Loehr has made over $20,000 in donations to PACs like the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and to the Petroleum Marketers Association, as well as to federal candidates and the RNC.

Front Group and PAC Participation

Kwik Trip is a supporter and member of the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Foundation - Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. This group supports lobbying efforts against business reform and regulations in the state.[8]


  1. Kwik Trip keeps rolling along,"Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. March 5, 2011,"
  2. Kwik Trip keeps rolling along,"Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. March 5, 2011,"
  3. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
  4. Patrick Marley Teachers, firefighters, cops target M&I with boycott, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 10, 2011.
  5. Sharing the free-market message," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Aug. 11, 2010"
  6. Wisconsin Democracy Network
  7. Wisconsin Democracy Network
  8. Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Foundation