LeClaire celebrates Kwik Star grand opening

    Surrounded by LeClaire city officials, store employees and customers, Kwik Star Store Leader Julie Leonard poses with a giant pair of scissors before cutting the ribbon to celebrate the LeClaire convenience store’s grand opening Wednesday, Nov. 16. CREDIT STEVE TAPPA

    LECLAIRE – A long drive and an even longer wait is now over for Mark Janssen.

    Like many of his neighbors, the eight-year LeClaire resident had to make a nearly 30-minute round trip to nearby Bettendorf whenever needing groceries ever since the rivertown’s Slagle Foods closed in 2019.


    However, the road trip officially ended Wednesday, Nov. 16, when the LeClaire Chamber of Commerce was among the many welcoming a long-awaited Kwik Star convenience store here during an afternoon grand opening.

    The celebration included a ribbon cutting for a large crowd of customers, employees and city officials – as well as 77-year-old Don Zietlow, one of the founders in 1965 of the LaCrosse, Wis.-based Kwik Star. The nearly 60-year-old chain has grown now to include 838 stores across Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

    As part of the party, the LeClaire Civic Club and LeClaire Police Department both received $1,000 donations from Kwik Star’s parent company, Kwik Trip, Inc.

    “All we need now is a pharmacy and Chinese restaurant,” Mr. Janssen said happily before heading out the door after buying a pack of chicken tenders for a late lunch.

    His commute Wednesday was far different from when he used to travel to the Interstate-80/Middle Road interchange to shop at the closest grocer to his hometown – Kwik Star at Bettendorf’s TBK Bank Sports Complex. He needed only a minute to return home – traveling up the hill from the new store at 1201 Eagle Ridge Road. Located at the intersection of South Cody Road/Highway 67, the store sits near the Interstate 80 Bridge at LeClaire’s southern gateway.

    Kwik Star first opened for business nearly two weeks ago on Thursday, Nov. 3, which marked the end of a long journey for customers such as Mr. Janssen and his city.

    In March 2018, the city council cleared the way for the new Kwik Star by rezoning the 3.3-acre property from residential to commercial use.

    A month later, a group of neighboring property owners banded together to sue the city in an attempt to prevent the move. The legal fight finally ended in the Iowa appellate court last year to allow for construction to start in May 2022.

    “It feels like we’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” LeClaire Mayor Dennis Gerard said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “So, the first thing I’d like to do is thank Kwik Star for their patience. We had some unnecessary and unfortunate barriers the city had to work through to make this day happen. Otherwise, we would have been celebrating here a couple of years ago.

    “But Kwik Star stuck with us, and they’ve been hanging there with us, and they never said they were going elsewhere,” he added. “They stayed with us and that’s why we’re here today.”

    The reception was a reminder why Kwik Star remained confident in the location, said Store Leader Julie Leonard.

    “It’s great. It’s exciting. It is in my backyard, practically,” said Shelley Weih, another LeClaire resident. “I actually live up the road, so it’s a lot more convenient than having to go to Bettendorf.

    “And today I found a smaller size (pack) of vegetables. I always like to keep vegetables in my fridge — and I used to buy them at Fareway — but they were so big, I could hardly get through them all … We’ve also taken advantage of the meals to go often. My friend who eats dinner with me a lot loves meatloaf and I have a turkey dinner at home in the fridge.”

    Ms. Weih was joined by another friend, Karin McCray, a five-year Kwik Star devotee from Davenport, who also picked up some groceries. “I love the products, the convenience, the friendliness. Just the whole experience,” she said. “It’s a great place to come and we’re glad to have (the Kwik Stars) here in the Quad Cities.” 

    Same as Ms. Weih, many customers have been hauling home bags of potatoes since the opening, Ms. Leonard said. Eggs, bananas, and other fresh produce also have been popular items alongside Kwik Star’s signature baked goods.

    “We’re selling a ton of donuts — more than expected, so that’s been great,” added Ms. Leonard, who began as a part-timer at a Kwik Star in Davenport seven years ago and began her steady climb up to this new store’s manager position. 

    “We’re seeing a lot of traffic in the mornings but we’re probably busier at night. We are seeing a lot of people grabbing stuff on the way home,” she said. “The reaction from our guests so far has been overwhelmingly positive. People are excited this is finally in town.”

    Same for the store’s nearly 30 employees, with Ms. Leonard estimating that 80% of them hail from LeClaire, upriver Princeton or cross-river Port Byron.

    “There wasn’t really a grocery store here for too long,” she said. “We all feel like we are making a real difference here.”

    During the welcoming ceremony, company founder Mr. Zietlow reflected on the incredible growth of his company from humble beginnings.

    Kwik Trip, Inc., now produces many of the products sold in their stores – from milk and other beverages to chicken and other meals and to the baked goods such as their donuts, muffins, and cookies.

    The company also has its own distribution network of trucks to stock their stores several times each week with fresh products. Local food banks benefit from products remaining on the shelf too long, Mr. Zietlow added – which is part of the company’s commitment to the communities they serve.

    Employees also now own a percentage of the business and share in the profits, he said, explaining that “Our people are the key.”

    The LeClaire location is the 13th Kwik Star in the Iowa Quad Cities, said Kimberly Kile, a 23-year employee and district leader who oversees the local Kwik Stars. The company entered the market in 2014.

    “I’ve always admired the business,” Mayor Gerard said. “When I go into a store, first of all the product offerings and the competitive pricing is just fantastic.

    “One of the things that really excites me about having Kwik Star here are the two favorites in my household — the dunkers (cake donuts) and the fried chicken. And now I don’t have to go so far to get those, so we’re really excited about that.

    “The smiling faces — the helpfulness — it’s genuine and when you leave, you hear, ‘see you next time.’ So, we’re just glad you’re here,” he said.  

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