Real Estate - Commercial

Convenience Store Chains Expand

By Emma Dill, posted Jun 7, 2024
A matter of convenience: 7-Eleven recently installed gas pumps and built a 5,000-square-foot store on Market Street in Wilmington. (Photo by Emma Dill).
Last month, convenience store chain Wawa opened its first North Carolina location in the Outer Banks. That store is the first of many in the works across the state, including a handful of locations proposed across Southeastern North Carolina.

At a community meeting in mid-May, officials from the Pennsylvania-based company announced 10 sites they’re eyeing for a Wawa, in locations ranging from Hampstead and Wilmington to Leland, Supply and Shallotte.

Wawa’s inroads into Wilmington represent a broader trend of new gas stations and convenience store brands extending their reach into the Cape Fear region in recent years.

That list of brands includes Sheetz, another Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain; Baltimore-based Royal Farms; national chain 7-Eleven; and Refuel, a South Carolina-based chain. Some of the chains’ local expansions, like those of Wawa and Royal Farms, were made in conjunction with their broader growth into North Carolina.

Some of the projects are nearing completion while others are still working their way through the planning stages.

Construction appears to be complete on a nearly 5,000-square-foot 7-Eleven at the intersection of Market Street and Birchwood Drive in Wilmington, for example, and a roughly 6,100-square-foot Sheetz at the corner of Independence and Shipyard boulevards appears to be nearing completion.

Planning is underway for additional Sheetz and Royal Farms locations throughout the region. Last year, gas stations 7-Eleven and Refuel opened in Leland. Another Refuel broke ground last fall in the Riverlights area.

According to information presented at Wawa’s May meeting, the company currently has 10 sites under contract in the region.

In New Hanover County, the list includes 6800 Carolina Beach Road, 9021 Stephens Church Road, 4113 U.S. 421 and 7375 Market St. Sites also include 5400 Oleander Drive – the former site of restaurant Hops Supply Co. – and a site at the corner of South 17th Street and Wellington Avenue – the former site of several businesses, including Tinyz Tavern and a P.T.’s Fashioned Grille.

Wawa’s under-contract sites in Brunswick County include land at the corner of Ocean Highway and Frontage Road in Shallotte, a site at the intersection of Ocean Highway and Lanvale Road in Leland and a third site at 3 Green Swamp Road in Supply. The only site under contract in Pender County is 19240 U.S. 17 in Hampstead.

The company also has plans to grow its presence in the Jacksonville and Fayetteville areas.

While not a new chain in the Wilmington area, Circle K officials have plans to bring a new convenience store and gas station to the site of a former Walgreens on Dawson Street.

But first, the site will need a rezoning. In a tie vote, Wilmington leaders denied the rezoning earlier this year, stalling plans for the gas station. The plans have resurfaced and will go before Wilmington planning leaders in early June.

Circle K planned to demolish the vacant building at 1618 Dawson St. to build a nearly 4,000-square-foot convenience store and 14 fuel pumps. Walgreens moved out of the site’s more than 11,000-square-foot building in 2021, and it’s been vacant ever since.
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