Thorntons, a Louisville, Ky., gas station/convenience store operator with revenues of $2.3 billion, plans to open the first of a planned 15 to 20 stores in the Tampa Bay area next spring.
The chain, which touts filtered water and two types of ice cube choices for fountain drinks, operates 165 stores across the Midwest.
The family-owned chain was founded by James Thornton in Clarksville, Ind., 41 years ago after he sold his Payless chain and is now run by his son Matt.
With stepped-up franchising activity for expansion by Circle K and 7-Eleven, Thorntons joins newcomer Wawa from the Philadelphia area in trying to elbow its way into the crowded Central Florida convenience store market.
It's Thorntons first new market entry since Nashville in 2007.