A new Wawa store – the fifth one in Ocala – is opening for business on Thursday.
Doors open at 8 a.m. at the new convenience store, located at 3080 SE Maricamp Rd. Limited-edition Wawa Ocala T-shirts will be given to the first 100 customers through the door, as long supplies last. Wawa also will offer free coffee to all customers at the new store from Thursday, Feb. 6 through Sunday, Feb. 16.
An official ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held Thursday at 9 a.m., followed by a signature Hoagies for Heroes competition, where teams from the Ocala Police Department and Ocala Fire Rescue will face off to see who can build the most hoagies in three minutes. Wawa will conclude the competition by presenting checks on behalf of the winning and runner-up teams for $1,000 to the charities of their choice.
“At Wawa, we recognize that our customers lives move at a rapid pace, and whenever we open new stores, it is our goal to deliver our unique brand of convenience in a way that fits our customers’ busy lives and is attuned to their specific tastes,” said Todd Souders, senior director of store operations.
As part of opening-day festivities, a family with a 3-year-old athlete representing Special Olympics Florida will bring awareness to the organization’s mission and how the local community can support athletes through The Wawa Foundation’s in-store fundraising campaign from opening day until Monday, Feb. 24.
Wawa also has opened new locations in Ocala at 3601 East Silver Springs Blvd., 1001 S Pine Ave. and 3312 W. Silver Springs Blvd. Those openings followed groundbreaking ceremonies in September 2018 that were heavily attended by Ocala and Marion County officials.
Another store at 4025 SW College Rd. opened in May, followed by a Belleview location at 5726 SE Abshier Blvd. in September. Like the other locations, those two have been quite busy since first welcoming customers.
The properties that contain two of the Marion County Wawa stores – 1001 S Pine Ave. in Ocala and 5726 SE Abshier Blvd. in Belleview – currently are for sale for $4.5 million and $4.07 million, respectively. SRS National Net Lease Group is handling both locations, which come with 20-year lease agreements with the popular minimart company, as well as six five-year options to extend.
On Thursday, Jan. 30, Wawa opened a new store in Leesburg. That minimart is located at the busy intersection of U.S. Hwy. 441 and Griffin Road. Wawa originally had hoped to open the new store before Christmas, which was announced at a Leesburg Commission meeting in July. But that didn’t come to fruition for the store, which is located on property that once was home to a large Citizens First Bank branch and a historic Sonny’s BBQ location.
Over the past two years, Wawa has flooded the market near The Villages. The first area store opened in in Oxford in November 2017 and was followed by a somewhat controversial location at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 27/441 that opened in July. Another location just down the street at 13535 U.S. Hwy. 27/441 in Lady Lake – not far from the Sharon L. Morse Medical Building and the soon-to-be-renamed UF Health The Villages Hospital – opened in September.
In late December, Wawa customers faced somewhat of a headache when the company announced that a large-scale data breach had compromised the payment information of customers who used a debit or credit card at any of its more than 850 locations since March. Company officials sent letters to customers saying they discovered malware that was capable of capturing customers names, card numbers and expiration dates at both the inside pay stations and gas pumps.
Wawa is a privately held company that began in 1803 as an iron foundry in New Jersey. Toward the end of the 19th Century, owner George Wood took an interest in dairy farming and the family began a small processing plant in Wawa, Pa., in 1902. The milk business was a huge success, due to its quality, cleanliness and “certified” process. As home delivery of milk declined in the early 1960s, Grahame Wood, George’s grandson, opened the first Wawa Food Market in 1964 as an outlet for dairy products. Wawa adopted the Canada goose in flight as its mascot.