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- 2013 - February - 22nd -

Wawa convenience chain expanding in Florida: Plans 100 stores in Orlando, Tampa; could Jacksonville be on the map?

by Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

The privately owned Wawa convenience store chain, with more than 600 stores in five East Coast states, has been expanding into Florida with a goal of 100 units in Orlando and Tampa over five years.

The Philadelphia-based chain, based in the Wawa area of suburban Philly, began opening in July in the two Florida cities and now has 11 open, two opening by early March and six under construction.

Could Wawa be coming to Jacksonville? There's talk circulating around town that it could, although the company says only that it is reviewing other areas in Florida.

"While we are actively looking at areas throughout the state for sites, it is premature to confirm any activity outside of Orlando/Tampa Bay at this time," said spokeswoman Lori Bruce with Wawa Public Relations.

"As you know we are actively opening stores in the Orlando and now, Tampa Bay, markets. That is where we are concentrating our store construction activity now," she said.

According to the wawa.com site, the company employs 18,000 associates in more than 600 stores throughout parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The site says Wawa created a "fresh, new look for Florida."

"This brand new store design includes our upscale, state-of-the-art store features, but has a special new look just for Florida," it said.

Wawa said the prototype, which is the standard design for Wawa's new Florida stores, was designed by Coleman Brandworx, known as CBX, based in New York City, and Cuhaci & Peterson Architects Engineers Planners in Orlando.

It said the design principles include visibility to food service through glass (floor to high ceilings); colors, materials and textures that complement the look and feel of the "Sunshine State"; attention to building design, lighting and landscaping; a focal point of the kitchen area, featuring food service, fresh beverages and the fresh express case; natural light, modular displays and shelving for an open, uncluttered look; and warm Florida materials and colors.

Wawa is based in Wawa, Pa.

When Wawa opened its first Florida store in Orlando, Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer attended.

Wawa is privately held and does not publicly release financial information. Wawa employees can qualify to earn Wawa stock through an employee stock ownership program. Employees own about 29 percent of the company.

Wawa said it does not confirm site locations until construction begins, saying site approvals can take several months. It does not franchise stores.

The Wawa website provides site selection criteria for its stores, including:

• A preferred lot of about 2 acres for the standard building size of 4,000 to 6,000 square feet of space, parking for 50-60 cars and space for eight multiproduct fuel dispensers. Other size sites might be considered, but none less than 1 acre.

• The locations should feature adequate nearby residential population to support retail sales; a nearby daytime population that includes employment centers, retail, office and commercial traffic generators; and a minimum traffic count of at least 25,000 vehicles a day with access to the site.

• It prefers a freestanding location at a corner at a signalized intersection, outparcels and pads at shopping centers, and other sites with a high-traffic volume.

• Wawa will consider purchasing or leasing the property. Site acquisition will be contingent upon receiving all approvals to construct and operate the proposed Wawa Food Market and gasoline facility.

Wawa said it will open 10 stores in Tampa and 15 new Orlando stores this year.

Throughout the Orlando / Tampa markets, Wawa will open 25 stores in 2014 and 25 stores in 2015.

The new stores will each employ more than 35 associates in full- and part-time positions that receive competitive salaries and health benefits as well as the opportunity to enroll in Wawa's employee stock ownership plan.

Wawa Inc. began in 1803 as an iron foundry in New Jersey. Wawa.com said that toward the end of the 19th century, owner George Wood took an interest in dairy farming and the family began a small processing plant in Wawa, Pa., in 1902.

The milk business was a success due to its quality, cleanliness and "certified" process, the site said.

As home delivery of milk declined in the early 1960s, Grahame Wood, George's grandson, opened the first Wawa Food Market in 1964 as an outlet for dairy products.

Today, Wawa offers fresh food service selection, including Wawa brands such as built-to-order hoagies, freshly brewed coffee, hot breakfast sandwiches, built-to-order hot, iced and frozen specialty beverages, and soups, hot sides and snacks.

More than 300 of the more than 600 convenience retail stores offer gasoline.

Most stores are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

JCP adding Joe Fresh shops

Look for Joe Fresh shops in two regional J.C. Penney Co. department stores this spring.

The City OK'd the permits for Big Services Inc. to renovate spaces within the Regency Square Mall and The Avenues mall JCP stores for the Joe Fresh shops. The combined build-out is $70,000.

Penney said last year it would open shops for Canadian fast-fashion label Joe Fresh in stores this spring. The Joe Fresh shops will offer women's clothing such as dresses, T-shirts, denim and silk blouses. The Joe Fresh apparel also will be sold at jcp.com

Yahoo.com reported in July that the company has been focusing on restructuring its stores to add more store-within-a-store concept, including Sephora and MNG by Mango, a Spanish clothing chain, followed by boutiques for Levi's and other jeans brands.

Yahoo.com said the midpriced department store operator has been seeking a way to stem declining sales. Under a new CEO, former Apple Inc. executive Ron Johnson, the company has been overhauling the business from pricing to brands.

Meanwhile, J.C. Penney Co. hasn't confirmed a partnership with Caribou Coffee Co. Inc., but plans filed with the City indicate the retail chain is adding coffee bars in its stores featuring the Minneapolis-based company's products.

Building permit applications under review at the City show "JCP-Caribou Coffee" plans for the stores in the Regency and Avenues malls.

Titled "Caribou Coffee 'Commissary' rollout," the plans show Caribou Coffee bars on the second level of each store near the escalators.

Another Family Dollar store on the way

The City approved the permit for HJB Construction Inc. to build a Family Dollar store at 4302 Moncrief Road W. at a project cost of $350,000. The store will be 8,320 square feet.

Gate store to open soon

The monument sign was approved for the Gate Petroleum Co. store at 11040 McCormick Road. Auld & White Constructors LLC is the contractor for the $4,000 project by Jacksonville-based Gate.

The City approved the building permit in August for Auld & White to build the 4,893-square-foot convenience store and gas station at project cost of $952,850.

The store is expected to open in mid-spring.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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