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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Florida has been a hotbed of convenience store activity in the past three years, but now retailers are zeroing in on the Volusia-Flagler area of the state.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, several new convenience stores and gas stations have been opening up throughout the two-county region in the past year. C-store chains recently adding, or looking to add locations, in the area include Wawa, RaceTrac Petroleum, Raceway, Circle K and Sunoco.
The newest name on the list is Cumberland Farms, which recently informed Port Orange, Fla., city officials that it is considering at least two store sites in the city, the news outlet reported.
"Florida is defined by cars," said Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing. "Convenience stores fit into that model well."
He pointed to the state's growing population, improving economy and its reputation for being business friendly as drivers behind the activity.
"[Pennsylvania-based] Wawa jumped over a couple of states to get into Florida," Lenard said, adding that the chain, which has a strong fan following in the Mid-Atlantic states where most of its stores are located, isn't going to settle with just adding a few scattered locations in the Sunshine State. "It's going to be hundreds."
The emphasis consumers are placing on timesaving moves is also pushing the growth of the convenience channel. "That cupholder in the car is the dinner plate for most people," Lenard noted.
Wawa created a buzz with recent grand openings in Port Orange and Orange City. The chain is looking to eventually have about 10 stores in the Volusia-Flagler area, according to Brian Duke, the company's regional real estate manager.
Cumberland Farms would not comment on its possible expansion into the two-county area, but company officials did acknowledge a change in its strategy, which includes opening larger, more modern and upscale stores, according to the News-Journal. The Framingham, Mass.-based chain currently has two older "classic stores" in Volusia County — both in Deltona, Fla. — but recently opened several of its new format stores in neighboring Brevard County.
Cumberland Farms' plans include "building bigger stores with more food and beverage options for today's busy customer," explained Dino DeThomas, the chain's senior vice president and chief real estate officer.
Meanwhile, Atlanta-based RaceTrac has at least seven stores in the Volusia-Flagler area and is looking to add more locations throughout the five-state region it currently serves, including Florida. Jessica Rice, a spokeswoman for RaceTrac, has said there are plans to add at least six more stores in Volusia and Flagler counties.
Raceway, a convenience store/gas station chain owned by RaceTrac, is also expanding its presence locally, according to the news report.