Wawa breaks ground on the Outer Banks, more stores to come throughout North Carolina

Published 11:57 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

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North Carolina’s first Wawa convenience store and gas station is set to open the first quarter of 2024 in Kill Devil Hills. Wawa representatives, local leaders and community members gathered for the chain’s groundbreaking at the building site early on Friday morning, May 12, 2023 to learn about site plans, community partnerships and state expansion plans for Wawa.

Wawa is a privately held, family-owned chain of 1,000 convenience retail stores that currently operates in six states and Washington, D.C. This move into North Carolina is the company’s first state expansion in approximately 10 years, the last being Florida. “What a great place for us to be,” said director of operations Kim Dowgielewicz in a post-event interview. “When you think about our company, we’re family – family, community – and we’ve heard from so many locals here today about the Outer Banks being a family. For us, it was a natural transition.”

As Wawa makes its “first flight” onto the Outer Banks, more stores are in the works. The team announced the next site to go under construction this year will be off of Halstead Blvd. and Rt. 17 in Elizabeth City, anticipated to open in the second quarter of 2024. About 35 stores are planned to open in North Carolina within the next three to five years, in locations including Rocky Mount, Greenville, Wilson and others east of I-95.

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Lori Bruce, Wawa public relations manager, shared that the company is aiming to create more than 2,000 new jobs for residents of North Carolina within the next 10 years, as up to 50 state stores are in the works. Jay Ratcliffe, Wawa’s area manager, shared that each convenience store typically has 35-40 associates. Wawa plans to invest approximately $6.5 million and employ, on average, 140 contractors and local partners.

Connectivity to their already established Virginia market helped prompt Wawa’s expansion from a “proximity standpoint,” and Bruce added that the history of the Outer Banks was something the company respected and connected with. “Family is everything to us, and we’re happy to make this our first flight to North Carolina.”

During the pre-groundbreaking remarks, Wawa presented $3,000 to two regional community partners, the Coast Guard Foundation (CGF) and Dare County Special Olympics (DCSO). Funds for the CGF will be used towards morale and wellness initiatives and funding recreational spaces for Coast Guard members and families in the Kill Devil Hills area. For DCSO, funds will support the 2023 Special Olympics North Carolina summer games, offering North Carolina athletes the opportunity to compete at no charge in sports such as swimming, basketball, gymnastics, bowling and more.

North Carolina Senator Bobby Hanig and Dare County commissioner Danny Couch joined Dowgielewicz, Ratcliffe, Wawa’s OBX general manager Conni Sanchez, Wawa’s regional real estate manager Sue Reardon and Wawa’s real estate project engineer Payman Nadimi with golden shovels in hand to break ground. Afterward, local Wawa “fans” were invited to unveil the “Coming Soon” sign, with a depiction of what the store will resemble upon completion.