What is Wawa, why people love 7-Eleven, Sheetz, Buc-ees


News of Wawa’s upcoming arrival in North Carolina sparked a feverish reaction over the weekend.

“The Taj Mahal of convenience stores,” a Wawa fan posted on Twitter. “Envious of my Raleigh friends today.”

The Pennsylvania-based chain of convenience stores and gas stations has not confirmed exactly where it will open and whether Raleigh is even the lucky destination. But a spokesperson told media the business would open in North Carolina by 2024.

Wawa will join a competitive marketplace of full-service fuel and food options, including Sheetz and select future 7-Elevens, each with their own fan schools.

So why are there so many stories surrounding Wawa? Let’s dig.

Wawa plans to open convenience stores in North Carolina, but the company has not released specific location details. Courtesy of Wawa

What is Wawa?

Wawa employs more than 35,000 people at approximately 900 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington, DC

Its convenience stores and gas stations are often found along interstate exits, attracting travelers from across the country.

But the chain never ventured into North Carolina. The closest options for Triangle residents are scattered across southern Virginia, about a two-hour drive away.

The chain is popular for its inexpensive food and robust coffee selection. For around a dollar, one can buy coffee of any size with over 100 different ingredient combinations. Wawa’s famous hoagie is a nod to the company’s Nordic roots, and the “Sizzli” – a customizable hot breakfast sandwich – is a fan favorite.

News of Wawa’s impending opening in North Carolina prompted dozens of enthusiastic posts from Wawa devotees on social media.

“I’m literally going to cry,” tweeted one loyalist. “Not having to travel to Virginia or Florida just to pick up Wawa is literally the best thing I’ve heard all year.”

Sheetz could command NC’s largest convenience store with over 100 locations. Leaf through

Why do people love Sheetz?

Sheetz, also headquartered in Pennsylvania, could command North Carolina’s largest group with more than 100 sites employing about 3,000 workers.

Sheetz founder Bob Sheetz opened the company’s first store in 1952, and the chain has since expanded to multiple states, from Ohio to North Carolina.

In 2019, Sheetz opened its 100th location in North Carolina. There are now about 20 in the Triangle, according to the company’s website.

“That’s cool,” one Twitter user said of Wawa’s announcement. “But Sheetz is even better.”

Its locations operate 24/7, 365 days a year, serving up fan-favorite mozzarella sticks, jalapeno popperz and two-for-$1 hot dogs. Menus also include saladz, sliderz, subz and more.

Slurpee devotees can already grab the summer staple. South Miami Blvd. in Durham recently installed two Slurpee machines. lars dolder

7-Eleven returns to North Carolina

In December, the N&O reported the imminent arrival of 7-Eleven in North Carolina, decades after it left the state in the 1980s.

7-Eleven’s parent company, Seven & i Holdings Company, based in Tokyo, purchased about 3,800 Speedway outlets in May from the Marathon Petroleum Company. 7-Eleven didn’t respond to a request from the N&O, but several local Speedway franchises appear set for a makeover.

The South Saunders Speedway in Raleigh will be razed and replaced with a new 7-Eleven, according to site employees. And the South Miami Boulevard Speedway has already installed 7-Eleven equipment, including the machine that produces the frozen Slurpee drinks that are synonymous with the chain.

“Basically, everything will be better and should attract more customers, more of everything,” said Dontell Turner, a worker at the South Miami site, who said officials briefed employees on the plans. “It will be different food, different drinks, different products.”

7-Eleven enthusiasts love it for the company’s signature Slurpee, a summer favorite, and the classic Big Gulp. The store offers great deals on various foods, including a “three slices of pizza for $3” deal and the ever-popular taquito.

Three new 7-Elevens are under construction in the Triangle, according to the company’s franchise website: at Airport Boulevard and Perimeter Park in Morrisville; at Louisburg Road and Calvary Drive in Raleigh; and “TBD Green Level” in Cary. All three are expected to open mid to late summer.

Buc-ees travel center.jpg
Buc-ee’s is best known for its snacks, including caramel-coated corn puffs Beaver Nuggets, and for its award-winning “America’s Cleanest Restroom.” Buc-ee’s Contributed

Could Buc-ee come to North Carolina?

In 2020, Buc-ee’s, a beloved Texas convenience store chain, began pursuing a project in rural Orange County before withdrawing its pitch in 2021 following community pushback.

The company wanted to build a 425,000 square foot development on a 104-acre site on Highway 85/40 near the Alamance county line. It would have been anchored by a 64,000 square foot Buc-ee Travel Center with 60 double-sided gas pumps.

Buc-ee’s is best known for its snacks, including caramel-coated corn puffs Beaver Nuggets, and for its award-winning “America’s Cleanest Restroom.” The chain also serves homemade fudge, freshly baked pastries and barbecue.

Buc-ee’s has remained silent on future North Carolina plans after dropping its Orange County project. But Buc-ee’s is exploring expansion opportunities in several southern states and could still compete for a location in North Carolina.

This story was originally published March 14, 2022 3:48 p.m.

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Lars Dolder is a business reporter at The News & Observer focusing on retail.

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