EXCLUSIVE: An Inside Look at Wally’s Expansion to Kansas City

NACS Daily spoke with Wally’s President and CEO Michael Rubenstein about the plans to expand.

November 21, 2023

Missouri-based Wally’s recently announced that it closed on its fourth site in Independence, Missouri, just outside of Kansas City. The c-store currently operates two locations, one in Fenton, Missouri and one in Pontiac, Illinois, with a third site planned north of Indianapolis in Whitestown, Indiana.

“This new location is in the Kansas City metro area, maybe 20 miles from downtown Kansas City on I-70 in between Kansas City and St. Louis. It really was kind of just the perfect fit for us,” Wally’s President and CEO Michael Rubenstein told NACS Daily. “It’s a site we’ve been working on for almost three years, and we’re super excited about it.”

He added, “We’re looking for that perfect sweet spot. A location that has a high traffic count, great visibility and easy access. This site really checks all of those boxes.”

“Our three most recent stores have been a little more metro than our first location in Pontiac, Illinois, which is more of a road trip destination. Our metro locations have that same component but there’s more commuter traffic as well,” Rubenstein said. “Being in a Midwestern or northern market, you’re going to have four months that are lower traffic, and you’re going to have two months with really low traffic. That’s why a lot of what we’re doing is closer to metro locations because even in colder months, people are still driving to and from work.”

The Independence location will be Wally’s largest one yet, with plans for a 50,000-square-foot travel center. The location will feature 80 gas pumps and about 20 electric vehicle charging stations.

With the extra space, Wally’s will use more of the back-of-house area to optimize the space for the team and daily processes. The extra storage allows the company to minimize additional shipments from suppliers and enables growth in the front of house.

“One of the things that we’re looking to continue expanding, especially in our metro locations, is our grab-and-go pre-made meals, which is something that we’ve already started to do in Fenton,” Rubenstein told NACS Daily. “Whether it's pre-made family meals or grab-and-go sandwiches, we’re looking to offer a more robust offering than just our cold selection. I think a lot of additional square footage will be dedicated to that.”

He added, “We’re looking to create that hybrid between a c-store and grocery store with those premade food options.”

Wally’s is also open to other opportunities for expansion. “We have other areas we’re evaluating, including growing in each of the metro locations that we’re in along with other additional metros,” Rubenstein said. “I think there’s a lot of opportunities in the St. Louis, Chicago, Indianapolis and Kansas City markets, so those are our main expansion points. We’re open to other opportunities as well, so if there’s a great site and a certain location, we’ll certainly look at it.”

NACS visited the Fenton, Missouri location to check out the retail and fueling space for Ideas 2 Go coverage. Watch the video here.