PINELLAS PARK, Fla. -- With the opening Friday of its Pinellas Park location, Wawa Inc. has officially announced its entrance into the Greater Tampa Bay area. The location is the first of five Wawa stores in the Tampa Bay Region slated to open in five weeks' time, and a hundred or more in the state within five years.
Last year, Wawa officially entered the Florida market with the opening of six stores in the greater Orlando area, subsequently opening two more stores for a total of eight in the Orlando market.
"We're not good at going in and opening a few stores. We go in and build hundreds of stores, starting here in Central Florida because we want to be in the community and really known on each and every corner as the place to go," Chris Gheysens, Wawa's president and CEO, told FOX 13-TV. "We have the same gas that the majors would have. We just price it at a point where we want to get people in our site and walk inside to see what's special and different."
With this first grand opening in the Tampa area, Wawa will continue to penetrate the Central Florida market with openings scheduled for a store in Tampa on Feb. 13, a store in Port Richey on Feb. 20 and two stores in New Port Richey on Feb. 27 and March 6.
In 2013 Wawa will open 10 stores in Tampa and 15 new Orlando stores. Throughout the Orlando/Tampa markets, Wawa will open 25 stores in 2014 and 25 stores in 2015, and it projects that it will open 100 stores in the Orlando/Tampa markets in the next five years.
The new stores will each employ more than 35 associates, all of which are new positions brought to the area through the development of the stores.
As reported Thursday, Wawa held a sneak peek for the Pinellas Park store, with Wawa executives, associates and mascots inviting local officials, heroes, organizations and community members for a ribbon cutting ceremony, parade of Wawa's history and values, a fan tent, sampling of Wawa products and a charitable hoagie building competition featuring the Pinellas Park Police Department and the Pinellas Park Fire Department.
Chris Gheysens, Brandy Halladay (center)Wawa has commitment to Tampa through its partnership with Feeding America Tampa Bay and All Children's Hospital. It has pledged to donate a portion of hoagie sales for these first five stores (up to $5,000 per store) to Feeding America Tampa Bay, with a goal to raise and donate $25,000 in five weeks time, and help fight hunger in the Tampa community and to support child hunger programs. Through Kids Cafe program, Feeding America Tampa Bay is able to distribute more than 3,000 meals weekly to low income students in Pinellas County.
"We are happy to help welcome Wawa to Tampa Bay, a community our family calls home. It is gratifying that Wawa is making a commitment to childhood hunger relief as they unveil their stores in the area," Brandy Halladay, wife of Philadelphia Phillie's Pitcher Roy Halladay, representing the Halladay Family Foundation, said.
She receive the first-ever Wawa hoagie made at the Pinellas Park store.
"We are thrilled to finally call the Tampa Bay area our new home, and are ecstatic to welcome our new customers to enjoy our unique brand of freshly prepared foodservice," said Gheysens.
"Last year we officially entered the Sunshine State in Orlando, and since then have been eagerly anticipating extending our commitment to being a good neighbor to the Tampa Bay region. We have been working with the local Feeding America food banks in Florida since March of last year, and we couldn't be happier to take this commitment to the next level through our initial Tampa launch. In addition, we are proud to continue our long-standing support of local heroes--thanking them for the service they provide to the community--including the local fire and police departments--and now the nursing staff at All Children's Hospital," he said.