Wawa, the popular Pennsylvania-based convenience store and gas station brand, held a groundbreaking ceremony for its first Jacksonville location on Thursday.
The groundbreaking took place at the site of the company’s future location at the St. Johns Town Center. Another ceremony was held in Orange Park for a future location off of Blanding Blvd.
Those in attendance were treated to a sampling of Wawa’s offerings including coffee and bakery items, and were able to meet the company’s CEO, Chris Gheysens.
The ceremony was packed with fans of Wawa, with people lining up to take pictures with Wally, the company’s mascot.
Indeed, many Jax residents have been waiting for this day for quite a while. Wawa stores are well-known for their excellent service and unique offerings, such as having a surcharge-free ATM in every store. As a result, their stores have acquired a fanbase that spans all the way along the East Coast.
Once the ceremony began, Gheysens spoke to the crowd about the Wawa brand and why the company wanted to become a part of the Jacksonville market. He said that Wawa and Jacksonville mesh well together because of the brand’s focus on close-knit communities, of which Jacksonville has plenty.
Gheysens explains that Jacksonville was always a goal when the company first expanded into Florida around five years ago. The company began its Florida presence in the Orlando and Tampa markets, slowly expanding with careful attention dedicated to doing things right rather than quickly.
That’s why, even though Jax was in their sights long ago, the company is just now setting down its roots here. As Gheysens told us, they wanted to make sure everything was done right, and that entering the Jacksonville market was a firm commitment rather than a hurried decision.
The two groundbreaking locations, along with a third location at Wilson Blvd. and Lane Ave., are expected to be completed in November with a goal of opening all three locations on the same day.
Gheysens also identified three other future locations. Two of those locations are expected to open in Spring 2018: one at Argyle Forest Blvd. and Old Middleburg Rd., and one at Beach Blvd. and Central Parkway. The other store, at Beach Blvd. and Southside Blvd., is scheduled for a Summer ’18 debut.
Eventually, the company plans to have around 40 stores in Northeast Florida.
The store design will feature an outdoor seating area to accommodate its kitchen.
In wrapping up his speech, Gheysens thanked city leadership and invited councilman Scott Wilson to speak briefly about the advantages Wawa offers to Jax.
Gheysens also presented a check for $10,000 from The Wawa Foundation to the Jacksonville-area USO chapter, and spoke of the company’s commitment to bettering the communities it becomes a part of.
It’s clear that there’s a ton of excitement about Wawa coming to Jacksonville – and that Wawa is just as excited about being here.