For years, New Jersey has been geographically divided by two convenience store chains. Pennsylvania-based Wawa dominates the southern part of the state, while North Jersey is filled with stores from rival chain QuickChek.
Now, a third company is about to challenge Wawa's dominance in the Garden State.
Maryland-based Royal Farms, best known for its fried chicken, has started construction on its first New Jersey location, in Magnolia, Camden County. NJ.com reports the company is replacing St. Gregory's School and Church on Evesham Avenue with a 5,400-square-foot convenience store and gas station.
The Magnolia location, which will be just down the road from a Wawa, is expected to open this spring, followed by proposed locations in Gloucester City and Marlton, and at the site of the former Berkley Diner in East Greenwich Township.
Meanwhile, MyCentralJersey.com reports a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Manville, Somerset County, on Royal Farms' plans to demolish the Chester House, a 100-year-old landmark on Main Street, and replace it with a 4,166-square-foot location.
The five new Royal Farms stores, each to include full-service gas stations along with indoor and outdoor seating, are all somewhat close to existing Wawa locations.
"We think there is room for healthy competition," Royal Farms spokeswoman Brittany Eldredge told NJ.com, saying the company is eying a larger presence in New Jersey. "We feel we offer something different."
It's not the first time Royal Farms has picked a fight with the region's most popular convenience store chain. Back in 2015, it opened its first store in Delaware County, Wawa's home turf, followed by a new location just off I-95 next to the Boeing helicopter factory in Ridley Township.
Wawa takes any competition seriously. On Jan. 27, the chain went to court to order DaWA, a small convenience store in Paterson, N.J., to change its name, claiming customers are "likely to be confused and deceived" by the similarity of the two. In Florida, the owner of a Kissimmee restaurant called Wawa Curry Taste of India changed the name to Wava after the chain filed a lawsuit in federal court.
Royal Farms has 173 locations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia. The family-owned company traces its origins back nearly 100 years, to a dairy business in Baltimore that opened in 1918.
Wawa has more than 700 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland. In 2012, Wawa moved into Florida, and now has more than 100 locations in the Sunshine State, with plans to open 120 more by 2022.