April 15, 2022
Around Philadelphia, it seems like there's a Wawa everywhere. But it's clear that the convenience store chain has greater ambitions.
Wawa plans to nearly double its store count to 1,800 locations by 2030, CEO Chris Gheysens told the Philadelphia Business Journal. It currently has 965 stores, but will open its 1,000th location later this year.
He characterized the plan as "the most aggressive growth" in the chain's history, saying the expansion will include "traditional" neighborhood stores and "non-traditional" rest-stop style formats in both existing and new markets.
Some of the new locations will include drive-thrus, a format Wawa began testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The chain debuted the concept in December 2020 in Westhampton, New Jersey, where a drive-thru was added to an existing store. Wawa opened its first stand-alone drive-thru in Morrisville, Bucks County early last year. It plans to open two more in Pennsylvania this year before expanding the concept to Florida in 2023.
The expansion will include 300 stores in the chain's existing territory, but Wawa also plans to "fill in the market" between Virginia and Florida, Gheysens said. Wawa doesn't have any stores in North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia despite ample markets along the I-95 corridor.
Wawa is expected to open its first store in North Carolina in 2024. That will give the chain a presence in seven states.
The company started as an iron foundry in 1803 and opened its first convenience store in Folsom, Delaware County in 1964. The chain quickly expanded into New Jersey and Delaware. In less than 15 years, there were 200 stores across the Philadelphia region.
Wawa's expansion plan does not include adding any stores north of New Jersey. The company abandoned its Connecticut and New York stores, and many of its North Jersey locations, in the 1990s. They were sold to a number of chains including Krauszer's Food Stores, which bought the 22 Connecticut locations in 1996.
Since then, Wawa has regained some of its presence in North Jersey. Today, its northernmost location outside of Pennsylvania is in Morris County, New Jersey.
In 2018, Gheysens told Inc. that he was looking into the possibility of opening Wawa locations in New York City, but said that high real estate prices were a deterrent.