Amid plans touted as the “most aggressive growth” in company history, Wawa continues to progress in its push to open non-traditional “travel centers,” in its new and existing markets in the coming years, CEO Chris Gheysens said, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Gheysens announced the efforts during the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s 2023 Economic Outlook. He told the Business Journal that the rest stop-style locations won’t have overnight accommodations but will instead include offerings that target “light-duty vehicles” carrying individual and family travelers and some single-day commercial truckers.
“Think of it as a Wawa on steroids. A lot bigger of a store, a lot bigger of an offer, a lot bigger of a parking lot, more amenities,” Gheysens said.
He first hinted at opening these travel centers last April, telling the Business Journal the Delaware County-based company plans to almost double its store count to operate around 1,800 stores by 2030. The expansion includes new locations in existing markets and states the company has not yet entered, such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.
Travel centers will play a significant role in the growth, helping to close the gap in Wawa outposts between its Mid-Atlantic and Florida markets. This will offer long-distance travelers more options for where to refuel or grab a snack.
Popular Texas convenience store chain Buc-ee’s is known for more of its travel center model. In addition to the typical gas pumps, restrooms and convenience store offerings, a typical Buc-ee’s has extensive food and beverage options and a gift shop selling a variety of products, from Buc-ee’s-branded merchandise to household goods to deer corn. It is open 24 hours but does not offer overnight accommodations or showers. The chain has locations throughout the South, with at least one outpost each in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky, all markets Wawa is looking to expand within.
Most of Buc-ee’s stores outside of Texas are larger than the typical gas station and convenience store. The brand’s Richmond, Kentucky, store, for instance, spans 53,000 square feet.
Wawa did not disclose the estimated size of its forthcoming travel centers. A traditional store ranges from about 5,800 to 6,000 square feet.
Implementing these travel centers will take awhile, Gheysens added, because they’re bigger and will be located in “more high-profile locations” on major highways like I-95. The next step in the company’s planning process is identifying the best locations for the travel centers. Due to the length of the planning stage and approvals needed, a spokesperson for Wawa said an opening of one of these stores is most likely five years away.