PDQ transitioning to Kwik Trip

A worker with La Crosse Sign Co. works on creating a template that will be used to create a Kwik Trip sign that will replace the PDQ logo next month. Kwik Trip has purchased 23 Madison area PDQ stores and will take ownership the week of Oct. 9th, including this store on the east side of Fish Hatchery Road.

A new deal between Kwik Trip and Hy-Vee will preserve a popular fuel rewards program when Kwik Trip takes over the 23 Madison-area PDQ convenience stores next month.

“Kwik Trip has a pending agreement with Hy-Vee that will allow our guests to continue to use their Hy-Vee Fuel Savers Reward card at all PDQ stores that will be converted to Kwik Trip stores in the near future,” said David Ring, community relations manager for La Crosse-based Kwik Trip.

Uncertainty over whether the program would continue was resolved after a public meeting Wednesday at the Villager Mall attended by about a dozen members of the public who peppered Kwik Trip representatives with questions and concerns about the upcoming transition. 

Company reps also said at the meeting that the converted PDQ stores will not follow the typical Kwik Trip model that allows customers an option to pay at the pump or pay inside after fueling.

It remains unclear which stores will be full-blown Kwik Trips and which smaller stores will be converted to the Kwik Trip's Tobacco Outlet Plus Grocery stores.

Kwik Trip announced July 19 that it was buying all 34 of Middleton-based PDQ's Wisconsin stores, the vast majority of which are in Dane County. Kwik Trip has said it hopes to finalize the purchase of PDQ in October and spend $30 million to $35 million to "re-image" all of the newly purchased stores with Kwik Trip branding.

Under the plan, each PDQ store will close for 24 hours during the week of Oct. 9 for inventory counts, to reset shelving, take deliveries and install Kwik Trip's point-of-purchase computer system. Then, between November and April 2018, each store will be remodeled and rebranded into Kwik Trips, the company said.

In addition, Kwik Trip is honoring the seniority of PDQ employees it hires and waiving their normal waiting periods for health, dental, 401(k), vacation and sabbaticals. Hourly wages begin at $12 per hour and all employees qualify for annual bonuses that last year were 16.5 percent.

"We want them to come on board," Ring said of PDQ employees.

The company has been holding career fairs throughout the area and on Monday will hold an open interview event from 2-6 p.m. at its Monona hiring office, 100 River Place. Another interview day is set for Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Madison Hampton Inn & Suites, 440 W. Johnson St. The company is hiring hundreds of workers to staff the stores, all of which will have more employees than they do now.

"We've picked locations so we can get to everybody," said Kristy Barta, a district leader for Kwik Trip. "A lot of people are coming in and we've been doing a ton of interviews."

Kwik Trip was founded in 1965 and has grown to one of the largest family-owned convenience store chains in the country with 570 stores and nearly 20,000 employees who serve 7 million customers a year.

But with the exception of a Kwik Trip that opened in 2014 on Monroe Street but doesn't sell gas and a 7,160-square-foot convenience store at 4825 American Parkway that opened in December 2015, the company has had little presence in the city of Madison. The purchase of PDQ, which was initiated by majority shareholders of PDQ, will provide Kwik Trip a relatively quick and comprehensive expansion of its Dane County footprint that is strong in the suburbs. 

Many of the questions at Wednesday's 90-minute meeting centered around the Hy-Vee gas rewards program, but others asked about political contributions by Kwik Trip executives to Republican candidates, including Gov. Scott Walker; some raised concerns about the company's sale of tobacco and others wanted to know about operating hours, which Ring said will be identical to that of PDQ.

While all PDQ stores will be converted to Kwik Trip stores, only 10 of the 23 Madison-area stores will initially have hot food, Ring said. The future of a small store with little room for expansion at Parmenter Street and University Avenue in Middleton also remains unclear, Ring said.  

Send retail-related tips and story ideas to badams@madison.com or call Barry Adams at 608-252-6148.

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Barry Adams covers regional and business news for the Wisconsin State Journal.