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Kwik Trip Founder’s Gift Funds Babcock Hall Dair Store Renovation

John Hansen of LaCrosse, founder of the Kwik Trip chain of convenience stores, and his wife, Donna, have donated $350,000 to the UW Foundation to renovate the dairy store in Babcock Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Hansens” gift will fund a major facelift for the store, a campus landmark that has served more than 6 million ice cream cones in its 38-year history. The remodeled store will feature improved traffic flow and a self-service display area. Behind the counters, the store will see upgraded plumbing and electrical service, along with better utilization of adjoining cold rooms to service the sales room. Food preparation areas will be modernized. Customers will enjoy improved lighting and ventilation and a more attractive seating area. To see the preliminary floor plan, click here.

Beyond fresh paint and wallpaper, the “ice cream store” has seen few improvements since it opened in 1951. In fact, most of the display cabinets and counters are original equipment. All renovations to the store must be financed through private gifts, according to dairy plant director Tom Blattner.

“Babcock ice cream has become a signature product of the college and the Madison campus,” says Elton D. Aberle, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “As such, the Babcock dairy store is a prominent front door for us and a significant campus remembrance for UW graduates and friends.

“This gift will spruce up our front door and make it more comfortable and inviting for our dairy store customers,” he adds. “This will be important not only for the campus, but for all of Wisconsin”s multi-billion-dollar dairy industry. We are extremely grateful to the John Hansen family for making this investment.”

The Babcock Hall dairy plant”s mission is to do research, provide instruction and perform public service, explains Blattner. Unlike most industrial dairy plants, the Babcock plant produces a variety of products, allowing people to study and use several dairy processes in one facility.

Each year, 75 to 100 students in degree courses study in the dairy plant, along with about 300 people taking one of the 16 short courses for cheese makers, butter makers, pasteurizer operators, sanitarians and ice-cream makers. Dozens of researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research and several UW-Madison departments use the plant, doing basic and applied research on milk, milkfat, cheese, sanitation and dairy-food safety. “The food industry has benefited considerably from the training of students and the research that has taken place in the dairy plant,” Blattner says.

Finished dairy products, in a sense, are “byproducts” of this teaching and research. The dairy plant supplies dairy foods – milk and cheese as well as ice cream – to the entire University community, and proceeds from the sales help to fund the plant.

John Hansen occasionally sampled these delicious byproducts during his college career. Hansen grew up on a dairy farm near Bangor, Wis., and graduated from UW-Madison”s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences with a degree in meat and animal science. He opened the first Kwik Trip store in Eau Claire in 1965. Since then, Kwik Trip Inc. has expanded to more than 270 convenience stores employing more than 4,500 people. In 1981, Kwik Trip, Inc. entered the dairy business, leasing a dairy plant in Minnesota and later buying facilities in Wisconsin, where “milk in a bag” was born. The Kwik Trip Dairy bottles milk, juices, fruit drinks and water, and manufactures 17 flavors of premium ice cream. John and Donna Hansen have been married 37 years. They have five children, two of whom are graduates of the UW-Madison, and seven grandchildren.