Sue Bartel stands in the recently remodeled coffee shop area at Kwik Trip in Dodge Center where she has worked since it opened.
By Ruth Hanson
It will be a quarter of a century ago on July 1, 1988, that the Dodge Center Kwik Trip opened, and that Sue Bartel, a next door neighbor, started working there.
"I interviewed before the store opened," she said. "I was working in the school kitchen when one of the men who was on the building crew at Kwik Trip stopped by. He said, 'You live close by. You should apply. You could walk to work.'"
She applied for a Monday through Friday shift, not expecting to get it.
"I like early hours," she said. "You get there, you get it done and you go home."
She explained that it is a busy time, with people getting off work and going home and other people going to work, so she sees a lot of people.
"And oh yes, I like seeing all the people," she said. "I like most people. I figure, 'Give them a smile and they'll brighten up - maybe I'll brighten their day."
She worked in the kitchen from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. for many years. About a year ago she started working from 3-8 a.m., at her own request.
The woman at the front counter shortly after eight the morning of her interview said they call her "the donut girl" because she frosts the donuts to be used for the entire day.
"Right now I frost the donuts and make the coffee and make the food for the people who stop in on their way home or going to work," she said. "Or I wait on people, depending upon how busy we get.
"And I love what I do. I've always liked it. I really like working at Kwik Trip. It is a great company. Kwik Trip is good to their employees. They treat us like part of the family."
The work is fast paced, so the days go quickly, she said.
"I love working here. That's especially true since my husband John's been gone. He worked at the steel yard."
Bartel's daughter Tonia and her husband David Weitzenkamp live in West Concord. They have three grown kids. Her daughter Chris lives in Dodge Center with two kids. Bartel has one great grandson, Tommy John, named for his great grandpa.
"Life is good, but I do miss John a lot," she said. "He was a good guy. Life is so short. I enjoy being with the kids and the grandkids and the great grandson."
They all like to go camping. She has a camper in Pioneer Campground between Wabasha and Kellogg, where they go as often as they can.
"We swim in the campground pool, walk on the paths and go out in our boat," she said.
She smiled and said that "life is good and Dodge Center is a good place to live."
She knows most of the people who come into the Kwik Trip, even if she doesn't remember all their names.
"One of the people who stops now and then and whom I enjoy seeing is Don Zietlow, our owner, president and CEO," she said. "He is a really super guy. He can drop in any day, always happy and always with a smile."
Dave Ring, the Community Relations Coordinator, said that Sue has put in 25 years of dedicated service to Kwik Trip and their guests in Dodge Center.
"Her loyalty, work ethic and character have significantly benefited Kwik Trip and the Dodge Center community," he said. "She has an unwavering commitment to Kwik Trip, her co-workers and our guests."
He explained that her official title is "Guest Service Co-Worker."
He added to Bartel's description of their boss that Zietlow, who is 77 years old, leads by example.
"He is adamant about being upbeat and having nice people around him," he said. "He doesn't micromanage and does a ton of trust building. He shares 40 percent of the company profits among the employees, which is unprecedented in business. He is known for hiring the right people and putting them in the right places."
"My 25 years working here have flown by," Bartel said. "I plan to work here as long as I can. I wouldn't change a thing about my experience at Kwik Trip if I had it to do over again."