Monday, June 24, 2024

Wawas in the works: Popular convenience store proposed in the Cape Fear

Wawa could be located in New Hanover and Brunswick counties, according to internal city emails. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — A beloved East Coast convenience store could be making its way into both Brunswick and New Hanover counties, as plans for its arrival are moving through government channels.

According to internal city emails, S. 17th Street and Wellington Avenue, as well as U.S. Highway 17 and Lanvale Road in Leland have been pitched as sites for Wawa.

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Scott James is the transportation planning engineer for the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. The multi-county agency is part of development review for New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties. James participates in the traffic impact analysis process for the region and confirmed to Port City Daily two Wawas were in the works. 

“They are not close to final,” he said. “I officially have two and anticipate a total of four.”

He could not share details on the unofficial locations, stating they are “rumors” right now. Yet, city emails indicate a possibility at 1618 Dawson St., formerly home to a now-defunct CVS-turned-Walgreens.

The two official proposals are under development in the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Division 3 traffic impact analysis review group. James explained a development is submitted for a TIA when it is expected to cause significant disruptions to traffic patterns around a proposed location. 

The WMPO clocked 27,000 cars near the 17th Street and Wellington Avenue intersection on a single day in 2019. 

If the property requires a rezoning, a TIA is typically completed before submitting the application to the proper government jurisdiction. If no rezoning is required, a TIA is typically required as part of the site plan review in the technical review committee.

It is unclear when the TIAs will be complete. James described the process as “a dance.” 

“Most partners are competent, attentive and focused, [so] it will go smoothly and more quickly,” James said. “I can’t tell you how this partnership is going to go because we haven’t gotten far enough in the process.”

The applicants and owners behind the area Wawas are unknown at this time. 

Port City Daily filed a public records request with the City of Wilmington at the beginning of September for documents and permits pertaining to the Wawas, specifically proposed at Dawson and 17th streets. The city fulfilled half the request six weeks later, only showing permits of former businesses that were homed at the address; nothing mentioned Wawa. 

The Wawa Craze

A Native American word for the Canadian goose indigenous to the Delaware Valley area, Wawa got its start in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. What began as an iron foundry evolved into a dairy farm, then a home-delivery service for milk, before the drink became available in grocery stores in the mid-20th century. 

Today, Wawa employs 37,000 people and secured $11 billion in revenue from 2021, according to Forbes. The store has garnered a cult following for its build-your-own sandwiches, hoagies, wraps and hot breakfast handhelds (“Sizzlis”), as well as coffee and flavored teas. 

It’s the third-largest retailer in the greater Philadelphia area and currently has over 900 stores, including more than 700 gas stations. It is patronized heavily in northern states, including New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., though it also has operations in Florida.

Earlier in the year, Wawa announced it would be moving into more Southern markets, including Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas. Company reps confirmed to WRAL in Raleigh that North Carolina stores would open by 2024, though it didn’t reveal where the locations would be exactly.

In the last few weeks, site plans have been submitted in other North Carolina cities, including Fayetteville and Elizabeth City. Wawa was approved in Kill Devil Hills earlier in the spring.

Port City Daily reached out to the company’s public relations team earlier in the month to inquire about the Cape Fear area proposals but didn’t receive a response.


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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