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The Willkomm Family’s Roots Run Deep and it Shows

Posted in: Truckstop Travels

Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at dschulte@natso.com or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.

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The Willkomm family built the Highlands Petro in Racine, Wisconsin, in the 40s and has been running it ever since. The family has built its brand by focusing on the local community and emphasizing the role it plays in the business. When you walk into the Racine Petro, you understand the work and vision the Willkomm family has poured into the stop. 

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The Willkomms even describe their local ties on the company’s website: When you see the Mobil and Petro logos, you may think of a big corporation; at the Willkomm Companies, we’re just family — locally home-grown.

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Photos throughout the location feature the Willkomm family and put the family history on display. People like to do business with people and the photos highlight the three generations of the Willkomm family that have run the operation.

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The location is clean and well-lit and draws you inside. The bakery at Willkomms is amazing. It is a beautiful display and the fresh donuts and pastries are located next to the coffee, which makes you want to grab a cup.

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The bakery also offers whole cakes, which is a great option for customers looking to take something home. 

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There is a large Danish population in Racine, and the Willkomms tap into the local flair by offering Danish specialties, such as the Danish kringle, in the bakery. 

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The Willkomm family also gives back to its community. Since 2008, over $13,000 has been donated to local fundraisers, organizations and benefits in southeastern Wisconsin. Over $35,000 has been donated to local schools and additional $72,000 has been raised for two homeless shelters in Kenosha and Racine.

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The stop has everything from a pet wash and laundry facilities to a sit-down restaurant and grab-and-go foods. It even has a medical examiner for conducting DOT physicals, which is especially important because there is a shortage of these services available, but the thing I love about this location is the sense of community you get when walking around. Even if it was your first time stopping here, you’d know that the roots run deep. The sense of history you get makes the stop memorable. 

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/// Did you know most weeks you can find me visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using my merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? I periodically share about those great retailers I visit here on the blog. Read more Truckstop Travels here.   

Photo Credit: Darren Schulte/NATSO

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.