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This summer, the La Crosse Tribune will take readers inside places across the region where they may not otherwise be able to go.

Hidden Places: Kwik Trip Distribution Center

From the From Tribune files: Hidden Places in the La Crosse area series
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Kwik Trip Hidden Places

John Kammel drives a single-pallet rider through the warehouse.

Where do you store the 6,500 inventory items needed for all those Kwik Trip stores? In more than 360,000 square feet in the La Crosse Industrial Park.

Since it was first constructed in 1996, the Kwik Trip Distribution Center has been expanded five times. The center handles everything from ripening bananas to packing up totes with orders of candy bars, Kwikery cookies and packs of paper plates sold on the shelves of more than 500 Kwik Trip stores in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.

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Kwik Trip Hidden Places

A trailer gets moved to a door at the distribution center.

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Kwik Trip Hidden Places

Andy Kuehl picks up individual items to fill orders to be sent out to Kwik Trip Stores.

The center operates 24 hours a day, with trucks leaving once in the morning and once in the evening for daily delivery to each of the stores. More than 370 employees keep the center humming, prepping the more than 100 loads the center ships out each day.

The distribution center is divided into three regions that handle frozen items, chilled items such as milk, fruit and eggs, and dry goods region that handles everything from pallets of Nature’s Touch bottled water to boxes of cereal and motor oil. More than 100 single-pallet rider vehicles are used to move and load the inventory into delivery trucks that can carry up to 15 tons of inventory in a single load.

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Kwik Trip Hidden Places

Bananas are stacked in ripening rooms at the distribution center.

The Kwik Trip empire runs on an integrated warehouse management system that handles the 33,000 pallets of items that come into the distribution center every day and sends them to Kwik Trip stores. In the small pull areas, the system tells employees the exact numbers of items each store needs as they go down the line picking and placing the items into totes, while others items, such as bottled water and tobacco products, get delivered by the case.

With very little storage space on site, all of these systems need to run smoothly in order to keep Kwik Trip stores stocked with fresh bakery items, cold drinks and frozen goods such as ice cream and pizza. Warehouse Superintendent Jared Rask said it was a testament to the hard work of the center’s employees who put in 10-hour shifts and keep thing moving along.

“Our co-workers are our greatest assets,” he said. “Without them, the business model doesn’t work.”

Kwik Trip Hidden Places

Orders are stacked in front of the doors before being loaded into the trucks at the Kwik Trip distribution center.

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Nathan Hansen has been the Education Reporter for the Tribune since 2014. Prior to that, he covered education, agriculture and business topics for the Winona Daily News. He is always on the lookout for news tips and can be contacted at 608-791-8234.

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