By staff writer Nathan DeGraaf
USF Kampus Kwik (1997-2005), May Your Penny Tray Always Be Full
The Kampus Kwik was a privately owned food mart located right next to the Local Pub and Grill. For years it served as the one stop shopping place for students and cigarette
buyers alike. The smokes were cheap, the people who worked the counters all had personality, and because so many college kids don’t have cars, this place also had pens,
notebooks and beer all at extremely expensive prices that anyone who owned a car would invariably snicker at (or, as was my case, laugh maniacally in the face of the clerk and
say, “I’d rather do time”—seriously, have you ever heard of a four dollar disposable pen?). And if you knew what you were doing, you could even ask for a
box of cartridges, and the cashier would reach below and pull out a case of 24 nitrous oxide whippets for the low, low, not-sold-in-any-other-stores price of $19.99—so you
could run home of course and make 30 homemade whip cream pies for your grandmother.
The Kampus Kwik was more than just a privately owned store next to a pub in the middle of a lower class neighborhood, it was (and I may be
glorifying this a little) the stuff that dreams are made of. And I will tell you why. There were three main reasons why the Kampus Kwik ruled, and why no 7-11 or Circle K will
ever replace it.
1. The Owner
Darrel Reese, owner of the Kampus Kwik, was the son of a millionaire. Reese had resigned himself to working at a resort in the Bahamas for roughly seven hours a week while
living off his trust fund. In a fit of logic, Reese’s father suggested that the 37-year-old, part-time bartender attempt to move up in the company by becoming a store
manager. The idea was that, eventually, he would leap from store manager position to an upper echelon position in real estate sales. Naturally, Reese, relying on his management
skills, made it a point to hire only the most inept people available, always price everything in the store either way too high or way too low (based solely on, and I quote,
“what a pain in the ass the distributors are”), and never have enough money in the register to make change ($20’s were treated like Confederate dollars in 1865). To
give you a better idea of how bad a businessman Doss was, his first two employees were my college roommates, Doug and Larry, who spent their first day on the job drinking free
Heineken and letting me walk out of the store with enough groceries to keep us fed for a week. And you wonder why the place will always have a special place in my heart.
2. The Employees
First, you got Ricky, the mulatto ROTC student who was incredibly serious about everything and refused to even consider giving you less than or more than exact change. His
nickname for months was Exact Change Guy. We joked that he should be a bus driver, but figured somehow that would turn into the movie “Speed 3: No Change”—one can only
imagine this was hardly an improvement on “Speed 2: Cruise Control.”
Then, you got Julius, who had more metal in his face than he had face and who would ask everyone who came in, from teenagers to senior citizens, if they wanted to buy some pot.
Sometimes I wondered if placing all that metal so close to his brain was like putting a giant magnetic adjacent to a computer monitor for ten years. At least that would explain
the warped smile he gave after every “no.”
Then, you got Cairo, an attractive, if not slightly overweight female, whose sole purpose at the Kwik was to take pictures
of the late night drunks who stumbled in because, and again I quote, “one of these guys has got to be on America’s Most Wanted.”
Finally, you have Chris, the laziest man on planet Earth. Chris actually preferred that you steal. He could sleep standing up and his favorite catchphrase was “Dude, just
take your money and go. It ain’t my store.” He was the best, because every time you bought from him it made you wanna try the same thing at a bank someday.
3. Employee of the Week
Nothing personified the attitude of the Kampus Kwik like their Employee of the Week sign. Everyday, you could walk into the Kwik and see, on the wall, a picture of “Larry
Johnson, Employee of the Week in April of 1997.” The sign has never been taken down and no one else has ever won the award. Larry won this award because he donated a portable
radio to the Kwik. The radio was there from that day until the Kwik closed its doors on Monday. Many a time after graduating, Larry would walk in and point to his picture and
say, “You know I gave this place that radio.” In true Kwik fashion, none of the employees appeared to give a damn, and simply turned their backs and continued
selling beer to minors. I like to think the only thing that kept Larry from taking his radio back was the notion, deep down, that somehow this award, combined with his diploma,
would take him places someday. But that’s only because I knew Larry wasn’t smart enough to realize a portable radio is more valuable to a homeless person than any award.
So the Kwik has sense been replaced. Life moves on. Girlfriends become wives, jobs become careers, beer gets more expensive, and the next thing you know, you’re throwing
up cheap 40’s in the bushes outside a completely different convenience store. It’s like the man says, ain’t nothing sacred.