Two new Wawa locations, one each in Manatee and Sarasota counties, are showing how far the amenity-heavy convenience store has come in the Florida market.
On Thursday, the two stores will hold their grand openings. A new store at 4506 53rd Ave. E. will be the company’s fifth in Manatee. To the south, a new Wawa location at 3703 N. Washington Blvd. is Wawa’s first in Sarasota County. Together, they are the 91st and 92nd Wawas to open in Florida. The company entered the state in 2012.
Both local stores open at 8 a.m. Thursday. Grand opening festivities start at 9 a.m. at the Sarasota store and 11 a.m. at the new Manatee County store. The highlight of the Manatee County event will be a “Finest vs. Bravest” hoagie-building contest between members of the Bradenton Police Department and the Southern Manatee Fire Department.
Lt. James Racky, a spokesman for the Bradenton Police Department, said five department officers have been getting ready for the contest for a few weeks. The department’s hoagie-making team is 1-1, having competed at two other local Wawa openings.
“We’ve been working out now for a couple weeks on wrist control and condiment placement,” Racky said.
Members of the Manatee County Sheriff’s office will also participate in the contest.
Each of the competing teams will receive $1,000 from Wawa to donate to charity.
Wawa executives and Wawa mascot Wally Goose will also attend the grand opening events.
At just over 6,100 square feet, the new Manatee Wawa will be about the same size as the others in the county. The Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain is known for its food and beverages, including hoagie sandwiches made in-house. The stores also feature hot and iced coffee, fountain drinks, frozen beverages, pastries and on-the-go snacks and meals.
Wawa stores in Manatee County typically feature about 20 fuel-pumping stations. The company opened its first in the county in December 2014 at 701 First Street E. in Bradenton.
In all, Wawa operates more than 720 locations along the East Coast and in Florida.