Wawa might be known as an East Coast staple, but it’s trying to make its presence felt over much of the eastern half of the U.S. thanks to a planned expansion that so far includes seven new states.
The Pennsylvania-based chain is bringing its famed hoagies, newly added pizza and Canada goose mascot Wally westward as part of a broader plan to reach 1,800 stores by 2030. It currently has over 1,000 locations.
That’s an ambitious growth strategy, but plenty of communities are eager to get a Wawa of their own.
“There’s lots of excitement when they expand,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for NACS, in an interview on the topic earlier this year. “They’re not just opening new stores — they’re opening new concepts.”
Right now, Wawa stores can be found in six states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida — as well as the District of Columbia. Below, C-Store Dive breaks down what the company’s new-state expansion looks like so far.
Wawa adding seven states to its footprint
Across a number of announcements in 2022, Wawa shared plans to expand to seven more states — Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.
These plans leave two notable holes in its coverage area: West Virginia and South Carolina.
Sweet Home Alabama
As development plans in these new areas commenced, Wawa began a series of roadshows in targeted expansion regions to engage with community members, share information about the construction roadmaps and sample its food offerings.
The first state to get one of these roadshows was Alabama, along with the Florida Panhandle, on Feb. 3. While Wawa already has stores in Florida, with more opening through the end of 2023, this announcement was the first time the retailer committed to building in the Panhandle.
Wawa's growth in Alabama
In Alabama, Wawa’s forthcoming stores are concentrated along the Gulf Coast. Over the next decade, the company expects to build at least 40 stores in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, according to a press release.
Wawa’s first groundbreaking in Alabama is expected to happen Nov. 2 at the intersection of Cottage Hill Road and Sollie Road in West Mobile, according to local news reports.
In 2022, Wawa shared plans to open up to 20 stores in neighboring Georgia in the coming years. Its first store — reportedly coming in Waycross, about four hours south of Atlanta — is scheduled to open next year.
Wawa first released news about its plans to open in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky in December of 2022. In September, it held a three-day tour of the three states to share details about where it has specific stores in the works. Its announcements did not include specific store locations, instead listing the counties that would be welcoming new c-stores over the next few years.
Wawa heads to Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky
While the store locations are scattered, they include some major metropolitan markets in the three-state region, including Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dayton and Louisville.
Just south of these three states, Wawa has also announced plans for up to 40 stores in Tennessee, with at least four locations at various stages of the approval process.
Ambitious growth plans in North Carolina
Last week, Wawa outlined its expansion plans for the Tar Heel State, noting it plans to build 80 stores in what it called a “first phase” of growth over the next decade.
That makes North Carolina the highest-growth target so far among Wawa’s new state expansion plans. There, the retailer will go up against national competition as well as regional players like Royal Farms.
Wawa’s first stores in the Tar Heel State
Next year, Wawa plans to open eight locations across six towns in the eastern half of North Carolina. In 2025, Wawa aims to open 15 stores followed by 10 in 2026. So far, the retailer has 30 locations in various stages of development.
Wawa broke ground on its first North Carolina store back in May, in the town of Kill Devil Hills.