The family behind the Wawa chain of convenience stores and gas stations, known for its selection of made-to-order foods purchased through touch screens, is comprised of nearly 200 descendants of George Wood. These descendants own less than half of the company today, while employees own more than 40% through its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Wawa Food Market stores were also part of a new trend in retail, the convenience store, which opened before and after traditional supermarkets and carried other foods and beverages 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, this was formalized with the ESOP, and shares were awarded to associates annually based on prior year service. CEO Christopher Gheysens has said that the ESOP is a central part of the Wawa culture, which rewards loyal workers and makes them proud to own the company. The story of Wawa began with a small dairy farm and processing plant owned by George Wood. At a time when pasteurization was not widely available, George requested that doctors certify their sanitary products and facilities to help ease the minds of people who distrust contaminated milk.
This set Wawa apart from its competition and helped it to become an iconic brand. In 1998, the company sold a stake to an investment group controlled by the McNeil family, the heirs of Tylenol. Within five years, they tried to force Wawa to go public. However, Dick Wood spent the 1990s figuring out how to manage his family's property, which was mostly divided between two separate family trusts.
A trustee began trying to force a sale or IPO, but Wawa was able to remain privately owned by its employees. Today there are around 800 Wawas across the United States, many of which are located in resort towns on barrier islands. In these cities, Wawa designs its stores to match aesthetics and changes operating procedures to adapt to coastal culture. It has 50 acres (20 ha) of land around Red Roof, the corporate headquarters; 150 acres (61 ha) of land around the Wawa dairy; and 225 acres (91 ha) J.
Every time customers walk into their local Wawa, they can easily access some convenient souvenirs. Growing up in a resort town with a dual personality nestled on a barrier island, I became intimately acquainted with Wawa. It was apparently a convenience store on the outside but on the inside it was much more. Some fans call stores communities and describe employees as more familiar. After hours on a surfboard, a Wawa sandwich tastes like something that has come down from the Olympus dining tables.