Wawa announced plans Wednesday for an aggressive expansion in Maryland — home turf to smaller rival Royal Farms — as the chain began construction on a store in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood and announced four more sites in Baltimore County.
The Pennsylvania-based convenience store retailer, which already operates 53 stores in Maryland, plans to add about 30 more throughout Maryland over five years. Wawa now runs eight stores in Baltimore County and the city.
Store executives announced the plans as work got underway on a location at Boston and Ponca streets in Canton. It will sit on a former Exxon-owned refinery site close to a future interchange for Interstate 895 and across from a Royal Farms — the deeply entrenched, Baltimore-based chain that’s also growing.
“We have competition and we welcome competition," said John Sharpless, Wawa’s director of store operations for Maryland. “We think there’s plenty of room for all of us here.”
Wawa just completed an expansion in Florida and is now turning its attention to the mid-Atlantic, Sharpless said.
“Baltimore is a place we came into 50 years ago,” he said. “We really don’t have that many stores here. Now is really the right time for us. ... Our convenience stores are doing well.”
The Canton store is expected to open June 1st and employ 40 people.
Construction on four stores in Baltimore County will start late next year and open in 2021. Stores will be built in Perry Hall, at Route 1 and Honeygo Boulevard; in Cockeysville, at York Road and Wight Avenue; in Owings Mills, at 9921 Reisterstown Road; and in White Marsh, at Philadelphia Road and Campbell Boulevard.
The chain also is opening three stores toward the end of next year in Prince George’s County.
“We will continue to build a pipeline of new sites,” with a goal of building five to six new stores a year from 2021 through 2025, at an investment of more than $6 million per store, said Katerina Goldfarb, Wawa’s regional real estate manager.
Wawa will mark its 50th year in Maryland next year.
The privately held company began as an iron foundry in New Jersey in 1803, then evolved into a dairy processing business when owner George Wood established a dairy plant in Wawa, Pennsylvania, in 1902. When home delivery of milk declined in the early 1960s, Wood’s grandson, Grahame Wood, opened the first Wawa Food Market in 1964 as an outlet for dairy products.
Today’s chain of 870 stores, in six states and Washington, sell gas, coffee and fresh food such as hoagies and breakfast sandwiches. Wawa announced in July that it signed a marketing agreement with the Ravens to become the team’s “official hoagie.”