Is Wawa a Pennsylvania Thing? - Exploring the Convenience Chain's History and Expansion

Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer said in 1989 that there was the indignity of being from a town now associated with convenience stores (Wawa Inc.). Eight weeks prior to June 15, 1989, Wawa Inc. announced that they planned to expand their dairy, located in Middletown Township. Walter Kirby, head of the Wawa Farm Association, alerted residents of the Wawa community, who showed up in large numbers at a meeting.

Kirby said residents didn't want the dairy to expand, but they preferred having a dairy to other types of development. Wawa is located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, partly in Middletown Township and partially in the Chester Heights district. Cynthia Mayer, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, said Wawa doesn't bother to contain itself conveniently within either municipality because the community predates that of the county and that of both municipalities. Starting in 1989, Wawa has several open fields, several farms, the Wawa Inc.

corporate headquarters, and what Mayer said was what could be the last dairy farm in Delaware County. Mayer said the dairy gives Wawa flavor and, in 1989, retains Wawa as a neighborhood and threatens it, according to some residents. Baltimore Pike divides Wawa into east and west sections. Starting in 1989, according to Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer, traffic obstructs Baltimore Pike.

According to Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer, in 1989 population estimates ranged from five families to 265 families. Mayer said a longtime resident of Wawa Road estimated that there were five families, while Walter Kirby, 68, the head of the Wawa Farm Association, estimated that there were 265 families. In 1989 Bruce Clark, the manager of Middletown Township, said that the municipality, as Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer paraphrased, does not really recognize Wawa as anything more than a neighborhood. The district of Chester Heights is located in the Garnet Valley School District, while the Township of Middletown is in the Rose Tree Media School District.

Dick Wood also spent the 1990s figuring out how to manage his family's property. Wawa's property was mostly divided between two separate family trusts and a trustee began trying to force a sale or IPO. In 1998, the company sold a stake to an investment group controlled by the McNeil family - heirs of Tylenol - who within five years tried to force Wawa to go public. On Thursday, Wawa unveiled plans to add up to 40 new stores in central Pennsylvania where rival Sheetz has a strong presence.

The Delaware County-based company currently has 17 stores in Berks and Lancaster Counties and encourages people to fill out an online form to suggest sites for future store locations. The convenience store chain has come a long way since its humble beginnings first as an iron foundry in the early 19th century and later as a dairy farm and processing plant in the early 20th century. The company thrived as a milk delivery business until it began opening stores in the 1960s to adapt to a changing market. Since then Wawa has regained part of its presence in North Jersey; today its northernmost location outside of Pennsylvania is in Morris County New Jersey.

Sheetz established in 1952 began significant expansion in central and western Pennsylvania in the 1980s and now has more than 630 stores in Pennsylvania Ohio Maryland North Carolina Virginia and West Virginia. The two companies that offer a similar combination of convenience items made-to-order food and fuel haven't overlapped much in Pennsylvania but have been subject to light-hearted rivalry with many jokes over the years from US Senate Candidate John Fetterman's Sheetz loyalty to a documentary-in-progress that will examine competition. Late night TV presenter Seth Meyers spoke about the two stores last month and revealed that he is a type of Sheetz fan. Wawa's planned expansion in Pennsylvania raises the question of whether Sheetz will eventually plant a flag in the Philadelphia area; their nearest store is currently located in Morgantown Berks County.

Michael Tanenbaum PhillyVoice Staff reported on this news story but there is much more to learn about this convenience chain's history and expansion plans. Wawa is big and grows fast; it is Pennsylvania's largest private company by revenue according to new Forbes ranking. Three years ago Wawa celebrated the launch of its 800th location; it now has nearly 950 stores across six states plus Washington DC with New Jersey having most outposts followed by its home state but Florida catching up quickly with more than 200 Wawas each. Billy Penn only exists thanks to fans like you; if you think our work is valuable consider making a sustaining donation today! As milk delivery business declined in 1960s Wood's grandson Grahame realized customers were buying more from supermarkets and thought Wawa could distribute his products that way; Woods also crossed paths with other local politically connected dynasties such as chemically renowned du Ponts and McNeils of Tylenol fortune playing secondary roles in Wawa's story.

But as company continues expanding without franchises it must figure out how maintain employee training and reputation for customer service on large scale; Wawa is 41% employee-owned with some saying its employee stock ownership plan is second largest ESOP country! But it really dates back....

Tristan Gagliardo
Tristan Gagliardo

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

Leave a Comment

Required fields are marked *