Expect to see those QuikTrip "under construction" signs popping up around Wichita in 2010.
The Tulsa-based convenience store chain promises another year of tweaking the business model in Wichita, where it operates 37 convenience stores.
Tweaking means new stores, bigger stores and potentially relocated stores, said spokesman Mike Thornbrugh.
What it probably doesn't mean is a bigger Kansas footprint, due in part to what QuikTrip officials call the state's "antiquated" liquor laws.
Three projects are under way in Wichita, Thornbrugh said:
* A "scrape and build" at Douglas and Washington, where a new, larger store will be built.
* A new store in the 12000 block of East 21st Street due to open in April.
* The company's 38th Wichita store is in the works at 39th North and Ridge Road, although no work has begun.
The new 4,600-square-foot stores — up from a little over 3,000 — and expansions are in response to QuikTrip's growing line of food and drink products, Thornbrugh said.
They're also being developed with an eye toward more gasoline pumps and larger spaces for traffic to flow through.
Fresh food heads the list of lines QuikTrip may expand.
"Everything we need is now in place — the five bakeries, the transportation systems, all the employees," Thornbrugh said. "Now we need to focus on expanding the menu, and it takes time to do that."
Convenience stores are dipping more into the fast-food market, the sector of the restaurant industry prospering in a down economy, said Cindy Claycomb, a marketing professor at Wichita State University.
"Generally with a convenience store, people are willing to pay a little more for the convenience, but in a poor economy they don't have as much money," she said.
"That doesn't seem to be the case here. If the (price) gap isn't too much, people will utilize the convenience."
QuikTrip's also evaluating its older Wichita locations, turning to the "scrape and builds," building a new store while the old one remains open, then knocking down the old building for parking and gas pump space.
New locations are a possibility where land isn't available for scrape and builds, Thornbrugh said.
What isn't likely from QuikTrip is a Kansas expansion beyond the Wichita market, Thornbrugh said: The company's store and employee costs make it essential to locate in high-volume, large-population metropolitan areas.
"We never say never," he said. "But what we're doing now with the amount of money we spend on stores, personnel and benefits, we need a large population base.
"So our expansion plans based on those costs are in places like Dallas, Phoenix and Tucson."
Further Kansas growth is hurt by liquor laws, Thornbrugh said.
"In QuikTrip's eyes, in the 21st century, it makes zero sense to have two classifications of adult beverages," he said.
"If that changes, the possibilities of not just QuikTrip but others expanding and entering the market is pretty likely."