When Celeste Carr’s three children see a Wawa, they scream.
Carr, an Oakland resident, often takes her kids to Walt Disney World, where they stop for breakfast at their favorite spot, Wawa.
Soon, they will pass by the Wawa — which is set to open in Winter Garden at the intersection of Dillard Street and Colonial Drive — each day on their drive to Foundation Academy.
“We are so excited,” Carr said. “Owning a local family business (Flooring America), it’s awesome to see the community so excited to see a business open its doors.”
The Wawa is expected to open in December, according to Randy Hodge, executive vice president at Intram Investments, the developer of the site which also includes plans for a Culver’s and a Wendy’s.
Wawa is a chain of convenience stores that often includes gas stations. The first Wawa opened in 1964 in Folsom, Pennsylvania. In 2012, the first Florida location opened in Orlando.
Like Carr, many West Orange residents have expressed enthusiasm over West Orange’s first Wawa. Many are Florida residents who have moved from the Northeast United States. Patrick Turner, a Winter Garden resident, is originally from Delaware and excited to see Wawa come to the area. He notices that many people call Wawa a gas station, but he thinks it is more than that.
“Up north, we consider Wawa a convenience store that just happens to sell gas,” Turner said. “The distinction is one of note, (because) they provide a wide variety of grocery items, as well as fresh food and really good coffee.”
Many recall visiting Wawa as children, where it was solely a convenience store without gas.
Kristen Chapman is originally from Pennsylvania, but after moving to Florida, she was excited to see that Wawa was coming to the Sunshine State, and the stores that are opening are the new and up-to-date stores with touch screens.
“I’m pretty picky, but I’m always really impressed there,” she said. “They have really great watermelon and fresh fruit. I love the (Wawas) in Florida. I cannot wait for the Winter Garden one. … I know in Florida, Publix is the way to go (for sandwiches), but for me it’s a tie between Wawa and Publix.”
On the property, Culver’s will be the first to open, with an opening date set for late October.
The chain, which is based in Wisconsin and known for its Butterburgers, frozen custard and cheese curds, allows its restaurants to be independently owned and operated.
Tim Coleman, an Ocoee resident, is the owner of the Winter Garden store. One year ago, Coleman left a career in banking to open his own Culver’s. Coleman saw the company took a small-town approach, even in bigger cities, and that it emphasized food quality.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said.
The exterior of both Wawa and Culver’s came up quickly. Now, it appears construction is progressing more slowly, because the equipment on the interior of the buildings must be installed, Hodge said.
Both Wawa and Culver’s will have an opening ceremony or ribbon-cutting on opening day.
The third business on the property, Wendy’s, is still going through the permitting process. Pending the progress of permitting and construction, the Wendy’s could open in springtime of 2017, Hodge said.
There is additional space available on the property, and once it was planned to be a strip plaza shopping area, but Intram Investments is currently working with the city of Winter Garden on what to put there.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].