CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- West Virginia is increasingly landing on the radar of retail chains, with Sheetz Inc. and Dunkin' Donuts the latest to build up their presence in the Mountain State.
Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz counts more than 20 convenience stores in West Virginia and has chosen West Virginia University in Morgantown for a non-fuel, grocery location.
Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin' Donuts is also boosting its profile in the state with eight locations. A ninth location is under construction in Hurricane and will be the fourth to share space with a Little General Stores c-store. Dunkin' Donuts sites can also be found in Bridgeport, Martinsburg, Parkersburg, Morgantown and Beckley, according to a report by The Charleston Gazette.
However, neither company has opened for business in West Virginia's largest city, Charleston, or its largest county, Kanawha, the report added.
Steve Rafferty, senior director of U.S. franchising for Dunkin' Donuts, told the newspaper the company, which has a strong footprint in the New England area as well as in the Midwest in Chicago, is always looking for new areas.
"We work really closely with the local franchisee," Rafferty said. "They are local business people who live and work in these towns. They help us to identify the most successful locations... What is the best fit for this town and this opportunity?"
Franchising options are still available in Charleston and Huntington, he said. However, company officials said the same thing in April 2013 when they announced three new West Virginia stores and said they wanted to double their U.S. locations in the next 20 years, the news outlet reported.
Rafferty hopes the company will have announcements about new locations in Charleston and Huntington later this year.
"We want to be in Hurricane, in the middle but also in the markets that surround it," Rafferty said. "With eight locations in the state, we have room to grow."
When Sheetz moves into a new market, it considers key factors including population density and road infrastructure, said Ryan Sheetz, the company's director of recruitment and staffing.
"When we moved into the West Virginia market, we really loved the accessibility," Sheetz told the news outlet. He said the company has tried to develop along the Interstate 64 and Interstate 79 corridors. "We are kind of littered across the main arteries in the state."
He said the company is active in "very distinct" pockets of the state, like the Eastern Panhandle, the southern part of the state near Princeton, and the western border close to Huntington.
"It's absolutely fair to say we are going to continue to look for opportunities in the Charleston area," Sheetz said. "It's a place we are thrilled to be in and people have adopted our brand."
He added the growth of other convenience stores in the area is not a deterrent for Sheetz.
"We expect and embrace competition," Sheetz said. "They have a really strong presence in West Virginia but like our other competitors, we think the world of them; they make us better."