Wawa Inc. is actively seeking sites in St. Johns County for its gas stations and convenience stores, expanding from its initial search of Northeast Florida locations in Duval and Clay counties.
Brian Duke, regional real estate manager for the Pennsylvania-based chain, said Wednesday that Wawa initially is interested in two to four St. Johns County sites.
He told attendees at the International Council of Shopping Centers North Florida Idea Exchange that Wawa considers the Northeast Florida area a 30-40 store market.
He said later Wawa thinks Duval County could accommodate 20 to 24 stores and Clay County would have six or seven.
Nassau County isn’t in review now, but sites rely on traffic and population.
Duke announced Wawa’s intentions to go “all in” within Northeast Florida at last year’s ICSC meeting. The company rolled out its initial plans in June.
He said Wednesday the first three area stores would open by year-end, although he didn’t identify the locations.
At least another 10 will open in 2018 and then two to four stores would open annually after that.
Duke told the group that nine locations are under contract in Duval and Clay counties. He said later that two are in Clay County, meaning seven are in Duval.
There are 11 identified sites, based on public records and property owners.
Wawa entered Florida in 2012, settling first along the Interstate 4 corridor.
“Jacksonville has always been on our hit list for expansion,” Duke told the group. “It was just a matter of time.”
He told the real estate brokers and developers that Wawa looks for 1.7- to 2-acre sites at busy traffic intersections with traffic lights.
Designs for the North Florida stores so far all have been for 6,119-square-foot convenience stores with covered gas canopies.
While layouts can change, Duke said, each store would offer the same experience, focusing on coffee, hoagies and smoothies, as well as its staple — fuel.
According to Wawa, it serves more than a million customers a day throughout the chain, annually serving 195 million cups of coffee and 110 million made-to-order sandwiches and hoagies.
That works out to more than 500,000 cups of coffee and 300,000 sandwiches daily.
Duke said Wawa continues to look at the I-95 and Florida 9B corridor south of Jacksonville.
“As Jacksonville and Northeast Florida continue to grow, we’ll be right there,” he said.
The Idea Exchange attracted 350 people to the event at the Hyatt Hotel Jacksonville Riverfront.