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Father to son: Kwik Trip leadership changing with retirement of long-time CEO

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Kwik Trip president/CEO Don Zietlow addresses Kwik Trip employees in July 2022.

After 52 years with Kwik Trip and 22 years as CEO and president, Donald P. Zietlow is retiring, effective at the end of the year.

Scott Zietlow, chair of the board of Kwik Trip and second-generation owner, will become Kwik Trip’s next president and CEO on Jan. 1, 2023.

Scott will retire from his role as a professor of surgery in the Trauma, Critical Care and General Surgery Division of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to assume his new responsibilities at Kwik Trip.

“I am honored to follow my dad’s legacy of guiding Kwik Trip. We are a very strong company and with our 36,000 phenomenal coworkers, great retail locations, and industry-leading vertical integration, our future is bright,” said Scott Zietlow.

Although Don attributes the success of Kwik Trip to the coworkers, his leadership has brought substantial growth and innovation. The company now operates more than 800 locations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan and is considered a leader in the convenience store industry.

During his tenure, Don was the driving force behind sharing 40% of the pre-tax profits with all the coworkers and Kwik Trip’s successful food programs. The company has grown its vertically integrated Support Center in La Crosse, including major capital investments in the dairy, kitchens, bakeries, and distribution center.

The first Kwik Trip convenience store opened in 1965 in Eau Claire. 

The Kwik Trip chain had been jointly owned by the Zietlow and John Hansen families since 1972. The Hansens sold their interest to the Zietlow family in 2000.

“The (50th) anniversary means a lot,” Don Zietlow said after a celebration in 2015 in La Crosse. “When we started Kwik Trip, I thought maybe we would get to 50 stores and that would be the max.”

At the 2015 milestone Don Zietlow he said there were many keys to success.

“You’ve got to have the best people. You’ve got to have clean stores with clean bathrooms. The best service. And a value on the products that we give our guests," he said.

Whether Kwik Trip will expand beyond its current three states will be up to the family's future generation, Don said.

“I think that’s going to be up to the grandchildren. We think we can put another 450 stores in our three states where we operate. After that, I think we’ll have an opportunity if we want to go to Sioux Falls (South Dakota) or Omaha (Nebraska) or someplace like that," he said.

As part of the new leadership team, Tom Reinhart has been appointed chief operating officer. Jeff Wrobel will continue his role as chief financial officer.

To learn more about Kwik Trip, visit kwiktrip.com.

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