Hop-In Food Stores Inc., a Roanoke-based convenience store chain, is jumping into the Northern Virginia market to compete with the area's 7-Eleven and High's Dairy stores.

Hop-In opened its first Northern Virginia shop two months ago, and over the next three years hopes to add about 50 more of the distinctive yellow-and-green storefronts emblazoned with red rabbits.

The company, founded in the early 1960s, already has more than 100 stores operating in mostly rural areas in Richmond, southwest Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

"But, now we're switching our emphasis and going where the people are," said Peter L. Surprenant, the company's director of real estate and corporate planning. That means invading the Tidewater and Northern Virginia markets that have been the strongholds of Southland Corp.'s 7-Eleven stores, though Surprenant said Hop-In isn't attempting to become as big as the nationwide 7-Eleven chain.

"I think it's sometimes easier to catch people asleep in their own backyard as opposed to the periphery areas," Surprenant said.

Hop-In differs from other convenience store chains, its employes said, by offering customers cleaner, more attractive surroundings and a wider variety of goods.

For instance, some Hop-In stores in the Roanoke area offer specialty items such as a soup-and-salad bar, a deli and pastry section with goods baked on the premises, hand-scooped ice cream, health and gourmet foods, imported wines, imported preserves and jams, and flowers. "It's the old-fashioned deli and soda fountain type of motif," Surprenant said.

Some of the convenience stores even are experimenting with selling antiques, and most sell gasoline. Hop-In also offers made-to-order sandwiches and 30 brands of beer.

In 1982, Hop-In was bought out by a Canadian firm, Silcorp Ltd., then called Silverwood Industries Ltd.

Hop-In opened its first Northern Virginia store two months ago in Dumfries, south of Springfield. Over the next three years, the firm plans to invest about $20 million to $25 million -- $300,000 to $500,000 per store -- to expand south of Washington. New stores are planned soon for Manassas, Sterling Park, Leesburg, Fairfax and Fredericksburg.

Hop-In's revenue for 1984 is expected to exceed $60 million, including its gasoline sales, said company treasurer John W. Moticha. Because the firm is privately held, officials wouldn't disclose its annual profits.

"We want to expand the product line and be more attentive to the needs of the community instead of taking the cookie-cutter approach," said Surprenant. "If you've been in one 7-Eleven, you've been in them all."