DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Florida has become a desirable target for region-hopping convenience-store chains.
Texas retailer Buc-ee’s Ltd. will open a location in Florida, its first c-store outside of the Lone Star State, in 2018. Virginia-based Uphoff Venture will open an Uppy’s c-store in Florida later this month.
And other regional chains have invaded the Sunshine State, with its influx of tourists and transplants from all around the country. The state’s population grew from 18.8 million in 2010 to an estimated 20.6 million as of July 2016, making it the third most populous state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
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Buc-ee’s has 32 giant locations in Texas. The stores are typically 50,000 square feet of retail space with fueling areas that have 80 to 120 positions, with no 18-wheelers allowed except for deliveries. Buc-ee’s is known for extremely clean restrooms and a large selection of pastries, sandwiches, jerky and fudge, as well as Beaver Nuggets, caramel-covered corn puffs inspired by the chain’s ubiquitous mascot, Buc-ee the Beaver.
Lake Jackson, Texas-based Buc-ee’s will develop 35 acres in Daytona Beach, Fla., off Interstate 95. It anticipates rezoning the property by the end of 2017, with construction starting thereafter, according to Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co., a Daytona Beach-based real-estate company that sold the land to Buc-ee’s.
Construction of new stores typically takes nine months to a year, Jeff Nadalo, Buc-ee’s general counsel, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. “We don’t have a timetable” on when the new store will open, he said. “It’s the first one that we are announcing. Certainly, we’d expect to have several.”
“You get 300,000 people moving to Florida every year, and we’re the third-largest gasoline market in the country, behind Texas and California,” Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, told the newspaper. Buc-ee’s officials had reached out to the association for advice on potential store locations, he said.
John Albright, CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka, said Buc-ee’s may have been drawn to the location in part because of the new nearby Tanger Outlets mall. “They’re located next to two Tanger Outlets in Texas,” he told the paper.
“Buc-ee’s has such a loyal following that people driving down I-95 are going to want to plan their stops here,” he said. “It’s going to be a destination convenience store.”
Uphoff Ventures LLC, Chester, Va., will hold a grand opening of Uppy’s Exxon in Key West, Fla., on April 22. It will feature Dion’s Quik Chik fried chicken and a Mark VII car wash known as the Uppy’s Clean Machine, offering soft and touch-free services.
Uphoff Ventures acquired Dion Oil Co. of Key West and Homestead, Fla., in February 2016, including 11 Dion Quik Marts in the Florida Keys. The Dion retail team will operate the new Uppy’s store.
“We are delighted to bring the high-quality Uppy’s brand back to Florida,” said Steven Uphoff, founder and former CEO of Uppy’s Convenience Stores and Mid-Atlantic Convenience Stores (MACS). Sunoco acquired MACS in late 2013. Uphoff also founded Southside Oil, which operated 78 Uppy’s c-stores and served 229 ExxonMobil and BP deal-operated gas stations in Virginia and Maryland.
“We are bringing back the name that we had in Virginia and Maryland,” Uphoff told The Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We consider Uppy’s a premier brand to bring into the marketplace.”
Uphoff said plans are to gradually transition the Dion Quik Mart locations to the Uppy’s name but to keep the chicken brand. “Where we go in and upgrade the facility … then we rebrand them Uppy’s,” Uphoff said.
Other major convenience-store chains have made Florida their beachhead, expanding from their traditional regional markets to bask in the sun.
The retailer “believes that Florida represents a growing market and that the acquisition of the assets from these companies supports 7-Eleven’s desire to grow in the fuels and convenience business in Florida,” Margaret Chabris, director of corporate communications, told CSP Daily News at the time.
7-Eleven is planning “aggressive growth” for South Florida in 2017, with a goal of opening 20 locations this year, according to Charles Bantos, the chain’s real-estate manager.
CEFCO has also noticed the state’s potential. In 2015, the Temple, Texas-based convenience-store retailer made Florida its seventh state of operation, entering it with a 5,500-square-foot prototype that leveraged its proprietary Fresh Eats Cafe program.
The southern regional chain, which also operates in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, now has six locations in the Florida panhandle out of more than 230 stores chainwide.
Midwest regional chain Thorntons Inc., Louisville, Ky., opened its first Florida convenience store in Clearwater in late 2012. It opened its second Florida store in Largo in early 2013. It is planning to open additional Sunshine State stores.
Thorntons operates more than 180 c-stores in six states: Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida.
Wawa opened its first Florida convenience store in Orlando in 2012.
The eastern regional chain, which has more than 730 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, now has more than 110 stores across Florida and plans to open 25 to 30 stores every year there for the next several years.