Two stores open in Northeast Florida on Wednesday, with more on the way.
Wawa opened its first Duval and Clay county stores at 8 a.m. Wednesday, offering free coffee and $1.99 gas. They remain open 24 hours a day.
The Duval store at 6787 Wilson Blvd. on the Westside brought in the Edward H. White High School band, a Navy color guard, city officials and company executives, along with store mascots Wally Goose and Shorti the hoagie.
“Wawa has turned a once-blighted corner into something nice for this community,” said City Council member Garrett Dennis, who represents District 9.
Wawa opened at Wilson Boulevard and Lane Avenue.
Wawa also opened at 678 Blanding Blvd. in Orange Park. It intends to open Dec. 21 at 4866 Gate Parkway near St. Johns Town Center.
Pennsylvania-based Wawa has big plans for Northeast Florida and intends to have nine stores open by year-end 2018.
Six stores will open next year and 16 sites are under contract. Wawa envisions the area as a 30- to 40-store market, said Brian Schaller, chief real estate and fuel officer for Wawa.
Wawa, which is based in Pennsylvania and operates in six states, said it has 5,000 employees in Florida, with plans for 10,000.
Wawa stores employ an average of 40 people.
“There’s 40 people with a better quality of life,” Dennis said.