The convenience store chain Wawa has been preparing for a major expansion across the United States over the past year. The retailer plans to open up to 40 new stores in central Pennsylvania, where rival Sheetz has a strong presence, and is also looking to fill the market between Virginia and Florida. Wawa unveiled plans to open around 100 stores a year in North Carolina in 2024, and could also consider opening stores in South Carolina and Georgia. Wawa has come a long way since its humble beginnings as an iron foundry in the early 19th century and later as a dairy farm and processing plant in the early 20th century.
The company thrived as a milk delivery business until it began opening stores in the 1960s to adapt to a changing market. Since then, Wawa has regained part of its presence in North Jersey, with its northernmost location outside of Pennsylvania being in Morris County. Sheetz, established in 1952, began significant expansion in central and western Pennsylvania in the 1980s. The company now has more than 630 stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
The two companies that offer a similar combination of convenience items, made-to-order food, and fuel haven't overlapped much in Pennsylvania. They have been the subject of a light-hearted rivalry with many jokes over the years, from US Senate Candidate John Fetterman's Sheetz Loyalty to a Documentary in Progress That Will Examine Competition. Late night TV presenter Seth Meyers spoke about the two stores last month and revealed that he is a type of Sheetz. Barstool sports writer Dana Beers tried to resolve the debate a few years ago after testing Sheetz for the first time. Wawa's planned expansion in Pennsylvania raises the question of whether Sheetz will eventually plant a flag in the Philadelphia area.
The nearest store in Pennsylvania is in Morgantown, Berks County. Wawa began the year by announcing plans for a new expansion across the state of Florida. The retailer published last Wednesday that it seeks to open more than 20 stores during the year and hire more than 2,000 new employees as part of its growth strategy. Since then, the chain has expanded rapidly across the state and will open its 250th store in Florida later this year. Wawa seeks to operate approximately 1,800 locations by 2030, with time increasing to open 100 stores annually.
Some of the new locations will also include drive-thrus, a format that Wawa began following during the COVID-19 pandemic in response to consumer demand for more convenient ordering channels. Wawa, a convenience store chain known for its freshly made snacks, plans to double its number of units by the end of the decade, an expansion that will include more self-service locations, its CEO said. Some thought it would never happen, but Wawa is getting closer to central Pennsylvania and Sheetz competition territory. Altoona-based Sheetz and Wawa have been building stores along Lancaster and Berks County borders. There are currently around 965 Wawa stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington D. C., with plans to expand its presence in Florida's Panhandle region along with adjacent markets in South Alabama over the next few years.