Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Doggin' it

If there is a heaven on earth it may well be the QuikTrip convenience store.

  I’ve been working on-site at a bank the past four weeks and haven’t seen my cubicle in a while. Instead I’ve been sitting in a conference room sharing a long wooden table with two or three other programmers. So in six years I’ve gone from having my own office to a cubicle to a room that I never had to share to a cubicle to a corner of a long wooden table. As the Grateful Dead sang in the song ‘Truckin’, ‘What a long, strange trip its been’

  This year’s on-site excursion is much more pleasant than last year’s twice a week trip to far-away North Liberty. I only have to travel an extra seven miles, I get free coffee, and best of all the building next door is a brand new Quik Trip convenience store.

  When I created retail store software for 13 years, the building I worked in was a block away from a Quik Trip. I would walk there sometimes for lunch and get a hot dog or sandwich. Once I bought a breakfast sandwich – a greasy, gooey mess of egg, cheese, and sausage on a biscuit - it was awesome. The Quik Trip clerks are normally very pleasant and brightly say things like “Hi” and “Come back soon!” but on this day the clerk scolded me in a matronly sort of way and said “Don't you know it’s too late for a breakfast sandwich!” I wasn't pleased at being criticized for my sandwich selection and I replied in my best matter of fact east coast voice “Lady, I got out of prison just this morning and the only thing that kept me going all those years was the thought of getting this breakfast sandwich!” The clerk immediately went back into pleasant and bright clerk mode and said “See you soon!” but I don’t think she really meant it.

  Quik Trip stores have a wide array of prepared sandwiches, sodas, energy drinks, fruit, candy, snacks, beef stick treats, and a stocked soda fountain. You may recall that before I won my Iowa State Fair speed chess blue ribbon last year I stopped at a Quik Trip for a 32 ounce combination of Mountain Dew and Rooster Booster energy drink which helped propel me to victory. I offered Quik Trip my services as a spokesperson and even though we couldn’t agree on compensation (I wanted some and they weren’t giving any) I don’t mind saying that Quik Trip is one of my favorite convenience stores and I wish we had one in Marshalltown and I haven’t even mentioned the Quik Trip hot dog station.

The incredible hot dog station at the Quik Trip!

The power of the press!
  Every Quik Trip I’ve ever been to has a fully stocked hot dog station with fresh hot dogs, sausages, corn dogs, and tortilla wrapped meat items. Except for my late friend Ed’s Chicago style hot dogs, Quik Trip's dogs are the best I’ve had in Iowa on any number of levels. The hot dog bun is held in a plastic container in a tray of hot water to keep it warm and fresh. The dog is juicy and explodes with the flavor of all the meat and meat byproducts when bitten into. Aside from mustard and ketchup, there is a complete fixin’s area with sauerkraut, relish, onions, pickles, pico de gallo, tomatoes, and peppers. I’m a mustard and kraut kind of guy myself but I do load up my hot dog container with a load of pickle slices (real pickles sliced the long way and not those dyed-green pickle chips) along with my dog. If you try this, I advise putting the mustard on the dog first and covering it with the kraut so the pickles won’t get mustard all over them.

  Best of all is that all this hot dog goodness comes at the low price of $1.39 each and 2 for $2.22. On the first day I was at the conference room my coworkers started talking about lunch plans and I said I was going next door to the Quik Trip and get a hot dog. I got a lot of snickers at first but now most of us walk to the Quick Trip at lunch for a hot dog and head back to the conference room to eat it. Sometimes I get a Full Throttle energy drink to go along with my dogs (2 for $3.50) and one day I treated myself to a $1.49 bag of Cheetos Puffs but to my chagrin the puffs were stale and didn’t melt in my mouth like Cheetos Puffs should so I called the Frito Lay company to complain. I merely had to mention that I was an ‘national award winning blogger’ (leaving out the part about being having a self-nominated award winning CHESS blog) and the customer service representative had a coupon for a free bag of any Frito Lay product I wanted (up to a $4.29 value) sent my way before I even had to ask.

You can load up on the pickles but don't expect to escape the watchful eye of Manager Randy!

  The only time other time I had a problem at the Quik Trip was when Randy the manager noticed all the pickles I was putting in the hot dog container and asked me if I had a hot dog in there to go along with my pickles. I smoothed things over with Randy by buying only one hot dog at $1.39 the next couple of days and even started striking up conversations with him. Did you know that Randy has been a Quik Trip manager for almost 30 years, this particular Quik Trip store sells over 400 hot dogs (not tacquitos or corn dogs) every day, and each bun is placed by hand (a gloved hand!) into its plastic container for warming? I can see why Randy is a manager because this is a man that really knows his hot dogs and if I was working at the Quik Trip when I was a teenager I’d never quit and become a manager also so I could have one of those awesome hot dogs any time I wanted.

  I was wondering why there aren’t any Quik Trips in Marshalltown and came up with the idea that perhaps the convenience stores in Marshalltown already have such great hot dogs that Quik Trip doesn’t feel they can break into this market so I went exploring about town in search of Marshalltown's best convenience store hot dog.

  My first trip took me to the Kum & Go – winner of the 2013 Daisy and Baxter beef stick award. The Kum & Go has a small hot dog station with those dyed-green pickle chips and sliced jalapeños to go along with bottles and packets of condiments. The price of $1.59 is a little more than the $1.39 at the Quik Trip and instead of a 2 for $2.22 deal Kum & Go offers a $4 combo with 2 dogs, chips, and a medium drink which is a slightly better value than getting the same items at the Quik Trip. I talked to Joel the manager and he told me that this Kum and Go sells about 400 hot dogs a month in the winter and 600 in the summer.

Nothing wrong with the Kum & Go hot dog station, but it is clearly not in the same league as the Quik Trip when comparing selection, toppings, or price.

  Next I went to my favorite convenience store - the Jiffy where Kathy and I take Daisy and Baxter for their beef stick treats at 4:30am every weekend morning. Even though it was 5 in the morning on a Sunday, Vince had one of each variety of hot dogs the Jiffy offers all ready for me to purchase for $1.69 apiece. The Jiffy has no condiments except for packets of ketchup and mustard and a plastic container with some jalapeños of unknown origin. I asked Vince how many hot dogs he sold in a month and he said maybe one but he also is working the overnight shift which isn’t exactly prime-time for hot dogs.

Vince at the Jiffy keeps a clean hot dog station mainly because it is uncontaminated by hot dogs or toppings that don't come out of a tiny plastic pouch...

  For my final stop I went to the Kwik Star store on the corner of Anson and 3rd Avenue. The Kwik Star is the closest thing in Marshalltown to a Quik Trip with a wide array of sandwiches, drinks, fruit, and snacks. The Kwik Star has a hot dog station with a full supply of condiments but when I looked at the grill to see what the price of the hot dogs were I stopped my search for Marshalltown’s hot dog answer to the Quik Trip when I saw this disgusting coating of burnt grease all over the griller. I didn’t even check the prices because I have seen an episode of two of ‘The Walking Dead’ and was afraid Oscar Meyer was going to turn over in his grave and head towards the Kwik Star!

The Kwik Star has the best toppings in town, but the grill station is in a word....EEEEWWWWW!

  As a result of my research, I determined that not only is there not a disincentive for Quik Trip to put a store in Marshalltown, this is a town that is in desperate need of a Quik Trip. I would happily buy a franchise except all Quik Trips are corporately owned so until the corporate powers that be decide to put a Quik Trip in Marshalltown I’ll just count my blessings that I get to drive to Des Moines to go to work every day where I can partake of the best hot dogs in Iowa.