The History of Wawa: From Dairy to Convenience Store

Grahame Wood was determined to embrace change and meet the changing needs of the community. On April 16, 1964, the first Wawa food market opened in Folsom, PA, marking the beginning of a new era for the company. The Wawa business began in 1803 as an iron foundry, but it was George Wood, a businessman from New Jersey, who moved to Delaware County, Pennsylvania in 1890 and started the Wawa dairy farm. Wood imported cows from the British Crown island of Guernsey and purchased 400 ha of land in the Chester Heights area; the corporate headquarters would later be renamed Wawa.

Since pasteurization was not yet available, many children became ill from consuming raw milk. Wood ordered doctors to certify that his milk was healthy and safe for consumption, convincing many consumers to buy the product. This strategy worked and allowed the Wawa dairy to grow. Demand for dairy products grew rapidly during the 1920s, and so did the company. Wawa began using the slogan Buy Health by the Bottle; they served customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, delivering milk to customers' homes.

Wawa Food Market stores were also part of a new trend in retail, the convenience store. Open before and after traditional supermarkets, they carried other food and drinks besides milk, as well as other items from the Wawa dairy. In 1977, Wawa began sharing ownership of the company with its associates through profit-sharing plans. In 1992, Wawa formalized ownership of its associates with its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and shares were awarded to associates annually based on the prior year's service. Because the company is a private company, Wawa ensures an independent assessment of the value of its shares at regular intervals to ensure that the ESOP is fairly maintained.

Today, ESOP accounts for more than 40% of Wawa shares. Beginning in the 1940s, the dairy plant began selling excess plots of land. In 1964, he sold some 40 acres to the Franklin Mint. Several years before 1989, the dairy sold 25 acres of land to a retirement complex, Granite Farms Estates. The process of selling surplus land continued sporadically. Wawa offers products found in most convenience store chains, such as chips, beverages and soft drinks.

Wawa also sells its own brand of iced tea, orange juice and milk. Wawa sold its own brand of soft drinks, but it has been discontinued. Wawa has Coca-Cola Freestyle soda fountains. The largest Wawa store is located on 6th Street and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Wawa stores

located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida sell more than 60 million made-to-order sandwiches a year.

Whether you're a daily customer of Wawa or have only heard stories about the convenience store chain that has Oscar-winning Kate Winslet among its fans, here are a few things you might not know about this beloved place. Employee data is based on information from people who have self-reported their past or current jobs at Wawa. Half of the city of Wawa, Pennsylvania is located in Middletown and the other half in Chester Heights - this is where you'll find the company's headquarters. Wawa has been a pioneer in creating this new “culture of convenience” where people are willing to pay more for easier access to goods and services. The chain's name comes from the site of the company's first dairy plant and corporate headquarters in the Wawa area. Some communities have multiple Wawa locations but for many customers only one will suffice when they need a cup of coffee or a snack - often resulting in driving farther than necessary to “their Wawa”.

In a society where consumers always remember what they like and what they don't like, history matters - and Wawa has one of the strongest stories going on. Today more people associate Wawa with coffee than milk but they are loyal to this place they can rely on for consistent quality, a friendly atmosphere and easy shopping. And together with his family Grahame Wood controls about 725 acres (293 ha) of land containing both corporate headquarters and J&J Dairy Farm.

Tristan Gagliardo
Tristan Gagliardo

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

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