Why does Kwik Trip have a cult following in Wisconsin? (2024)

Why does Kwik Trip have a cult following in Wisconsin? (1)

Pati Holschbach and her husband love Kwik Trip so much, they had their wedding photos taken there in March.

“The day after we got married at the courthouse, we went to our local Kwik Trip,” said Holschbach, of Green Bay. “It was a very small wedding. We walked in and went up to the counter to make sure it was OK with the staff. I said, ‘I promise we won’t disrupt anything.’ The employees were incredibly nice and started clapping.”

The couple are among the legions of fans who declare their devotion to the Wisconsin-based convenience store on social media pages such as “Kwik Trip Enthusiasts“ and “Wisconsin Kwik Trip Lovers.”

Holschbach, a Wisconsin native, met her husband, James McKenzie-Brown, on Tinder.

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“I was in Wisconsin and he in England at the time,” she said. “Our profiles should have never come across each other.”

When they first met in person in 2021, Holscbach took McKenzie-Brown to a Green Bay-area Kwik Trip.

McKenzie-Brown “was in awe” of the stores and “couldn’t believe the atmosphere” and all the things it offered. She said he still giggles when he hears the Kwik Trip goodbye: “See you next time.”


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They went so often whenever he came to visit that “it’s part of our engagement history,” Holschbach said.

The gas station chain, which opened in 1965, has inspired everything from wedding and prom photo sessions inside its locations to Halloween decorations and even motorcycle tours across the Midwest to visit every Kwik Trip brand store.

And there are a lot. The chain has 880 locations across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, northern Illinois, upper Michigan and South Dakota.

Enthusiasts say they like Kwik Trip’s “Midwestern” feel, from the kindness of its employees to the inviting, communal atmosphere of its stores.

What drives the following?

Thomas O’Guinn, professor emeritus in marketing at UW-Madison, said businesses typically gain cult-like followings by accident. But it’s the businesses that help fulfill a person’s need to belong that stick out from the pack, he said.

“In a broad sense, we are all looking for community,” he said. “Humans need community. Communities have to feel they are more similar to one another than those on the outside. Rituals and traditions drive belonging, too.”

He cited Coca-Cola as a brand that has successfully fulfilled the need to belong.

Why does Kwik Trip have a cult following in Wisconsin? (3)

“They didn’t sell a beverage,” O’Guinn said. “They sold the idea of community and America and all that wrapped up into one concept.”

John McHugh, Kwik Trip brand’s vice president for external relations, credited the chain’s popularity to its 38,000 employees.

“Our people are friendly and welcoming, and that makes all the difference for our guests,” he said.

A lot of the brand’s marketing is targeted toward its food offerings, McHugh said, which the vertically integrated chain is uniquely placed to promote since it produces many of its products at its facilities in La Crosse.

“We are a true Midwestern brand because our roots are here and only here,” he said. “You won’t find us outside the Midwest. More importantly, the profits go back to our co-workers. People in the Midwest want to support companies that return the investment to their people and communities.”

Love runs ‘quite deep’

A few years ago, Whitney Meza of Stevens Point posted a photo on Instagram of herself with a chocolate cookie she bought from a Ripon Kwik Trip. Meza took the photo aboard her motorcycle.

“My love for Kwik Trip gas stations runs quite deep,” she wrote in that Instagram post from 2020. “They were my breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout each of my pregnancies. I am obsessed with their brownie cookies.”

Why does Kwik Trip have a cult following in Wisconsin? (4)

Kwik Trip soon asked Meza to be a marketing ambassador for the company.

Since then, Meza, also a tourism industry worker and wedding photographer, has been tasked with finding quirky ways to both promote the brand while following her wanderlust.

“I thrive on that,” she said.

Last year may have been Meza’s quirkiest task yet: In two separate trips on her Harley-Davidson, she traveled to all Kwik Trip brand locations across the Midwest, which at the time numbered 877, including 507 in Wisconsin. Her first trip to all Wisconsin Kwik Trip stores was in May 2023 and lasted 10 days. Last July, she visited stores around the rest of the Midwest in a trip that lasted three days.

Riding 13 to 19 hours a day, Meza covered 9,321 miles over the two trips, stopping at dozens of stores each day.

“For me, it has always been my go-to,” Meza said of Kwik Trip. “If we are going up north, we are making that our initial stop for gas, food and treats.

More wedding photos

For newlyweds Jessica Chavez and Preston Kroening, both of Sturgeon Bay, continuing their wedding photo shoot at the local Kwik Trip was second nature.

“We are there all the time,” Chavez said.

After they got married on June 22, the couple posed for several playful images in front of the store and even next to one of the store’s gas pumps.

Why does Kwik Trip have a cult following in Wisconsin? (5)

Customers and Kwik Trip employees applauded and showered them with congratulations, she said.

The photo in front of the gas pump was the photographer’s idea, she said.

“It’s one of my favorite photos of all of them,” Chavez said.

“We love Kwik Trip,” she said. “A lot of it is the employees. They are all very friendly and super helpful. I have never met a grumpy employee.”

Why does Kwik Trip have a cult following in Wisconsin? (6)

Halloween fun

For Halloween two years ago, Kerri Jentz of Holmen and her family put together their own Kwik Trip display as part of a contest through their church.

“It was a lot of fun, and we received a lot of compliments about the creativity,” she said.

They set up a table with a red cloth over the top. On one side was a display of gas prices and deals, and in the center a replica of the store entrance. On the table were Kwik Trip brand donuts, drinks and foods.

“An acquaintance from my high school days saw my photos on Facebook, loved the idea, and ended up doing the same thing” this past year, Jentz said.

"They were my breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout each of my pregnancies. I am obsessed with their brownie cookies."

Whitney Meza, of Stevens Point

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Why does Kwik Trip have a cult following in Wisconsin? (2024)
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