1. Wawa started as a dairy in 1902

The old Wawa Dairy Farms building in Wawa, Pennsylvania courtesy of Wikipedia.com

George Wood founded the Wawa Dairy in 1902 in Wawa, Pennsylvania, to bottle fresh milk products from certified Guernsey cows. The Wawa Dairy produced and delivered certified Wawa milk to the doorsteps of homes throughout the Philadelphia region. On April 16, 1964, Grahame Wood opened the first Wawa Food Market in Folsom, PA to adjust to consumers buying milk in stores instead of using home delivery.

2. The company is named after Wawa, PA

The chain’s name comes from the site of the company’s first milk plant and corporate headquarters in the Wawa, PA. The name of the town Wawa is in turn derived from the Ojibwe word for the Canada goose.

3. Wawa loves suburban Florida

Aerial of new Wawa in Winter Haven, FL. Aerial courtesy of Google Earth.

To date, Wawa has refused to construct pedestrian friendly stores in Florida. Wawa prefers freestanding locations at signalized intersections with direct access to a minimum traffic count of at least 25,000 vehicles per day. Wawa prefers sites that are zoned to permit use and operation by right, of a 24 hour Wawa Food Market, with gasoline sales. Wawa’s ideal site and building characteristics include a lot size of approximately 2 acres, a 4,000-6,000 square foot building, 50-60 parking spaces and 16 fueling positions.

4. Wawa sells more than 195 million cups of coffee annually

Wawa is the No. 8 seller of coffee in the country. Packaging its own blend, Wawa sells more than 195 million cups of coffee annually. Introduced in the 1970s, is proprietary, and available only in Wawa stores.

5. Wawa’s bread is baked fresh in the store

Wawa fresh baked bread photograph courtesy of http://valuenetworkissues.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-cult-of-wawa-29.html

Wawa’s bread is baked fresh in the store. Available in Junior, Shorti, and Classic sizes, enough Wawa bread is made every month to stretch the New Jersey Turnpike six times.

6. Wawa is a convenience cult?

A busy day at Wawa photograph courtesy of http://whatsinstore.blogs.heraldtribune.com/2014/11/13/wawa-moves-ahead-expansion-sarasota/

Wawa has a cult following. In 2009, five West Chester, PA women completed a two-year goal to visit every Wawa in existence. Others, such as Jackass star and actor, Johnny Knoxville, have Wawa tattoos. Knoxville blames “whiskey and adrenaline” for the decision to permanently place the company logo on his body.

7. Wawa is aggressively expanding in Florida statewide

In 2010, Wawa announced it would expand into Florida. On July 18, 2012, Wawa’s first Florida location opened near Sea World in Orlando. In just three years, Wawa opened 66 gas station/c-stores throughout Central Florida. Wawa plans to open 120 stores in Southeast Florida, 30 stores in Jacksonville and 30 stores in the Tampa Bay area within the next few years.

8. Wawa makes its own dairy products

Wawa dairy products courtesy of Wawa.

Because Wawa still has its own dairy, it makes milk and ice cream products. However, Wawa’s dairy products are not available at its Florida locations.

9. Wawa is nationally known for its superior customer service

Photography courtesy of https://www.glassdoor.com/Photos/Wawa-Office-Photos-E3041.htm

The average Wawa store employs 8-10 staff per shift and features a large in-store selection inclusive of more prepared foods. To eliminate to longer checkout times during peak hours, Wawa offers multiple checkout stations for different buyers. For instance, the cigarettes and lottery are behind only one station, freeing up other stations for swifter checkout.

10. Wawa offers products found at most convenience chain marts

Interior of Bellmawr Super Wawa store courtesy of http://www.42freeway.com/bellmawr-super-wawa-is-open-10-pics-interesting-changes/

Wawa offers products found at most convenience chain marts such as chips, drinks, and soda. Wawa also sells its own branded iced tea, soda, orange juice, and milk. Key products include its variety of coffee, latte, and cappuccino flavors and sizes, and made-to-order hoagies. Wawa also offers a brand of hot breakfast products, most famous of which is the “Sizzli”, and also a full deli with touch-screen ordering of sandwiches, hot sides, drinks, and deli meats. Wawa sells alcohol in Florida and Virginia.

11. Wawa ranked 34th on the Forbes magazine list of the largest private companies

An urban Wawa in Center City Philadelphia. Photograph courtesy of http://www.ocfrealty.com/naked-philly/washington-square-west/new-wawa-opens-everyone-goes-crazy

In 2015, Wawa ranked 34th on the Forbes magazine list of the largest private companies, with total revenues of $9.68 billion. As of 2016, Wawa employs over 22,000 people in 720+ stores (450+ offering gasoline). Wawa’s stores are located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida.

12. 29% of Wawa is owned by it’s employees

Wawa on Central Florida Parkway in Orlando. Photographs courtesy of http://orlandoinformer.com/2012/wawa-hoagies-in-orlando/

Each Wawa location has 35 to 40 employees and requires $5 million in capital investment. 29% of Wawa is owned by it’s employees, whom it calls Associate Owners. Employees who stay longer than one year can own stock in the company.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com