Is Wawa a Florida Thing? Exploring the Iconic Convenience Store Chain

Dick Wood spent the 1990s managing his family's business, Wawa. In 1998, the company sold a stake to an investment group controlled by the McNeil family, the heirs of Tylenol. This was followed by a move to Wawa, Pennsylvania in 1902, where they entered the dairy business. The name Wawa comes from the native American word ojibwe for the Canadian goose, hence the iconic Wawa logo of a goose in flight.

Today, Wawa is a convenience store chain with locations across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington D. C. It offers a wide variety of pre-packaged foods and breakfast pastries, all fresh and relatively inexpensive. The company has also embraced technology with touchscreen orders at the deli counter and mobile ordering and delivery through a partnership with Grubhub.

The Sunshine State is about to replace the Garden State as Wawa Inc. expands its presence in Florida. Last year, CEO Chris Gheysens oversaw the launch of an oil barge and tug boat to bring 7.8 million gallons of gas from the Gulf of Mexico to Florida stores three times a month. Wawa recently announced a hiring campaign to add 1,000 new associates across Florida over the next three months.

The level of customization and good ingredients offered by Wawa has made it a favorite among customers. It's easy to order because Wawa was one of the first places to use touchscreen self-service menus. Long-time employees like Cheryl Farley, who started working part-time at Wawa in 1982, have seen firsthand how this commitment to customer service has paid off for the company. George Wood wanted to differentiate his product from the competition when he started with a small dairy farm and processing plant.

He approached this work with a healthy appreciation for the Wawa culture, and with a philosophy that continued to lay the foundation for Gheysens' leadership today. With one location per 88,752 people, accounting for approximately 24% of the total number of Wawa locations, it's clear that this commitment has paid off. On both sides of the line between cheap and delicious, Wawa still has a special place in many hearts. Wood kept Wawa private but he also began handing it over to non-family leaders more than a decade ago, betting that the best way to secure Wawa's future was to separate her from her founding family.

Tristan Gagliardo
Tristan Gagliardo

Proud social media ninja. Bacon expert. Unapologetic gamer. Proud zombie nerd. Freelance pop culture scholar.

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