BRADENTON -- The first Wawa convenience store in Manatee-Sarasota could be open in time for Christmas.
Site work is underway on the corner of First Street and Sixth Avenue after the city issued permits last week for the Pennsylvania-based chain to install underground gas tanks to mark the first phase of construction.
Wawa is aiming for a December opening but does not have a specific date yet, said Lori Bruce, a spokeswoman for Wawa. The store would be open 24 hours, 365 days a year.
"We opened our first store in Florida in July 2012 and today, we have 43 stores in the Central Florida market," Bruce said. "We are thrilled to be opening in Bradenton this year, and we look forward to serving your community."
Hiring has not yet begun for the store, which will employ 45 people, Bruce said.
Wawa is capitalizing on its faithful following in the Mid-Atlantic, offering its own line of coffee for sale, made-to-order hoagies and inexpensive gasoline by aggressively expanding in Tampa Bay and Central Florida.
That expansion is now in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Wawa has approvals to build 6,119-square-
foot stores at 701 First St. E., 4900 University Parkway, 5301 14th St. W, and a 5,636-square-foot store at 4455 State Road 64 E. Plans for additional Wawa stores are popping up in southern Sarasota County as well.
The downtown location would feature 20 pumps, public art and outdoor seating across from KFC. The East Bradenton location is expected to open in 2015. A timeline is not yet available for the other two stores.
Also in East Bradenton, Kentucky-based Thorntons is expected to open its 24-hour gas station July 10 at 4850 State Road 64 E., competing against the Wawa planned on the same road.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.ww