Feb 22, 2024 - Business

Wawa will ramp up its expansion into North Carolina

wawa in orlando florida

The entrance to Wawa in Orlando. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Wawa's push into North Carolina may expand beyond the company's previously announced plans for the eastern part of the state.

Why it matters: Wawa is one of those once-regional convenience store chains — much like Buc-ee's and Sheetz — with a feverish following. Anyone from Philly will wax poetic about Wawa and its famous hoagies.

What's happening: Wawa plans to add as many as 280 new stores over the next decade in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, Bloomberg recently reported.

  • CEO Chris Gheysens described this plan as "the most aggressive growth" in the chain's history, per Bloomberg.

Zoom in: Wawa previously disclosed plans to open eight North Carolina locations this year.

  • They're in Kill Devil Hills, (Wawa's first location, which broke ground last year), Elizabeth City, Wilson, Rocky Mount, Goldsboro and Greenville.
  • The convenience store chain has not said when these stores will open.

What they're saying: Wawa spokesperson Lori Bruce declined to say where the chain's next North Carolina locations will be.

  • "We are planning some briefings and events over the next few months to provide an update on our expansion plans for the market and to mark our first openings," Bruce told Axios.

Zoom out: In expanding, Wawa will have to figure out how to adjust based on the preferences of its new market.

  • Fried chicken, Gheysens told Bloomberg, is a "convenience-store staple in the South, while customers in New Jersey might prefer hoagies."
  • In 2017, Axios Charlotte, which was then the Charlotte Agenda, wrote that the Shell Station in South End had some of the best fried chicken in Charlotte.

Between the lines: Wawa considers several factors when determining where to place its next locations, including adequate nearby residential populations and sites at high-volume intersections.

  • Wawa typically prefers lot sizes of "approximately 2 acres, sufficient for standard prototype layout," buildings of 4,000-6,000 square feet, and space for eight fuel dispensers, according to the company.

Of note: Wawa currently has locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington, DC.

The big picture: Wawa's latest plans are driven in part by traveler preferences. In Petersburg, Virginia, home to the most southern Wawa until Florida, travelers reported stocking up on their southbound drive, Gheysens told the Philadelphia Business Journal in 2022.

  • For fun, Axios Richmond recently ate at Wawa and a few other convenience stores in that area and came to this conclusion: "I'd marry Wawa, date (Maryland-based chain) Royal Farms and ghost Sheetz."

Editor's note: This story was corrected to show that Wawa's first North Carolina location will be in Kill Devil Hills, not Elizabeth City.

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