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Thread: The Inside Story of Wawa, the Beloved $10 Billion Convenience Store Chain Taking Over the East Coast

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    The Inside Story of Wawa, the Beloved $10 Billion Convenience Store Chain Taking Over the East Coast

    The Inside Story of Wawa, the Beloved $10 Billion Convenience Store Chain Taking Over the East Coast

    55 years old. $10 billion in revenue. This family-owned business is rapidly expanding—and ditching gas and cigarettes for kale salads and nerdy coffee.

    Inc. |
    • Maria Aspan







    Wawa employee Towanda Davis and the company mascot, Wally Goose (wawa is the Ojibwe word for a Canadian goose), feeling the love at the opening of a Wawa store near Center City, Philadelphia. The company declared Wawa Day on April 12, in honor of the chain’s 54th anniversary. Photos by Mark Peterson.

    In February 2018, a few days after the Philadelphia Eagles had won their first Super Bowl, a suburban convenience store celebrated. Hard.
    The early-morning event nominally marked the reopening of the renovated store—a squat, tan outpost on a busy road—but it also doubled as an outpouring of football frenzy. Green-and-white noisemakers rattled. Eagles cheers punctuated the formal remarks. The mayor spoke, backed by rows of potato chips, while rush-hour commuters darted in for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. A towering goose mascot helped cut a big red ribbon.
    In the back room, wedged between computer servers and a first-aid kit, a brown packing box of Newport Menthol Gold at his feet, the man largely responsible for this $10 billion family empire grinned. "People ask what a non-executive chairman does. I tell them: Whatever he wants!" jokes Dick Wood, 80, who possesses, beneath the kindly exterior of a soft-spoken Florida retiree, a spine of steel. "I think I'm a myth."
    Among entrepreneurs, almost. Most family businesses don't survive the third generation, yet Wood is comfortably watching his multi-generation company thrive. That would be Wawa, the much-beloved convenience store that you likely know either intimately or not at all.
    Dick Wood, Wawa’s last family CEO and current chairman, at a store re-opening in Media, Pennsylvania. Wood made gutsy moves in the ’90s that ensured Wawa’s survival–and its success.

    Now Wawa's semi-retired chairman, Wood was the second and longest-serving chief executive of a four-CEO company, one that has weathered over half a century of family in-fighting, recessions, and several failed expansion attempts. Wood kept Wawa private, but also started handing it off to non*-family leaders more than a decade ago, betting the best way to ensure Wawa's future was to separate it from its founding family. His wager paid off. Wawa is still aggressively growing: As of 2018, it boasted almost 800 locations—none franchised—and 30,000 employees in six states (plus Washington, D.C.).
    Founded in 1964 by Grahame Wood—Dick's first cousin once removed—Wawa began as a roadside dairy market in the Philadelphia suburbs. Its founder likely wouldn't recognize Wawa today, as it expands throughout the East Coast and audaciously tries to muscle out of the gas-station ghetto to compete with the likes of Panera, Starbucks, and Sweetgreen.
    After decades of pushing cheap gas and cigarettes and made-to-order sandwiches to suburban crowds, Wawa is starting to
    de-emphasize two of the three. The current CEO, Chris Gheysens, is swapping in Tesla charging stations, kale salads, and small-batch coffee, most of which customers can order on their phones (or Wawa's ubiquitous touchscreens). Gheysens calls this Wawa's "barbell" strategy: continue to offer the cheap staples that attracted longtime customers, while expanding into cities as the newest health-conscious, gourmet-inflected, casual-lunch option.
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

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    "Nowhere else in my daily life does anyone hold open the door for me, except in a Wawa," says Ronald Dufresne, a management professor at St. Joseph's who worked on that program. "In a Wawa store, people are nice to each other."
    One of the trademarks of Wawa...customers will hold the door for everyone...then try to run you down in the terrible parking lots!
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

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    I thought I was a sad little person when I got excited about WAWA coming to St Pete. But it's not sad because the market was nearly ruined by Pakis and Indians who bought to gas stations and corner delis, and reduced them to beer, cigarettes, lotto, and the odor of a public restroom.

    WAWA is a worthy winner.
    I'm thinking that once, in 1953, a group of interesting people just happened to be in a coffee shop at the same time and a great discussion of issues, ideas, and the meaning of life occurred. Since then we have been waiting at Starbucks for Lawrence Ferlinghetti to say something heavy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Novaheart View Post
    I thought I was a sad little person when I got excited about WAWA coming to St Pete. But it's not sad because the market was nearly ruined by Pakis and Indians who bought to gas stations and corner delis, and reduced them to beer, cigarettes, lotto, and the odor of a public restroom.

    WAWA is a worthy winner.
    When I was at University of Miami I was surprised to see UM themed Wawa shirts....they're crazy excited to have Wawa down there!
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Novaheart View Post
    I thought I was a sad little person when I got excited about WAWA coming to St Pete. But it's not sad because the market was nearly ruined by Pakis and Indians who bought to gas stations and corner delis, and reduced them to beer, cigarettes, lotto, and the odor of a public restroom.



    Seven Essential Dallas-Area Restaurants in Gas Stations


    Some of the most interesting bites of food in Dallas can be found in a most unlikely location: behind the fuel pumps, next to the scratch-off tickets and the soda machine. Gas station food counters are, for many Dallasites, not just a novel place to eat but a central part of the city’s diet.

    To be clear, we’re not talking about hipsters or trend-chasing foodies here. Working folks on lunch break, roadtrippers in need of a fill and neighborhood communities looking for a gathering spot were chowing down in convenience stores long before foodies decided that visiting these spots was a way to show off their adventurous tastes.

    We’re also not trying to be demeaning. There is an unfortunate stereotype that gas station foods are dirty, greasy and cheap, a canard that takes on racial undertones when used in conversations about foods like tacos. This list, we hope, disproves that generalization, showing how much hard work and even creativity can go into a corner store food counter.

    There is a Shell station about a mile from my house owned by non-Norwegians. They have a Pho joint in the corner that is fucking awesome; best egg roll-ish things I have ever had. The guys who run it traded up from a food truck. There are non-Norwegians eating there all the time. The food is good, cheap, and conveniently placed right next to the beer fridge.
    “Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.”

    ~ Hannah Arendt

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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Jingo View Post
    There is a Shell station about a mile from my house owned by non-Norwegians. They have a Pho joint in the corner that is fucking awesome; best egg roll-ish things I have ever had. The guys who run it traded up from a food truck. There are non-Norwegians eating there all the time. The food is good, cheap, and conveniently placed right next to the beer fridge.
    Good for you , honey, but I was talking about St Petersburg Florida. I wasn't aware that the population is divided into Norwegians and non-Norwegians. Not that it matters, but when I was a child, Indians and Pakis and select Ethiopians were caucasian.
    I'm thinking that once, in 1953, a group of interesting people just happened to be in a coffee shop at the same time and a great discussion of issues, ideas, and the meaning of life occurred. Since then we have been waiting at Starbucks for Lawrence Ferlinghetti to say something heavy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Jingo View Post
    There is a Shell station about a mile from my house owned by non-Norwegians. They have a Pho joint in the corner that is fucking awesome; best egg roll-ish things I have ever had. The guys who run it traded up from a food truck. There are non-Norwegians eating there all the time. The food is good, cheap, and conveniently placed right next to the beer fridge.
    Hmmm....I wonder if Pho will be next on Wawa's list. Pho is definitely the new foodie indulgence. I'm always a little taken aback when my one nephew says "I'm going to get some Pho". He's not a foodie, but he loves that stuff, especially when he's sick.
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

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    Pho is one food trend that has yet to infiltrate my area. Trendy foods don't tend to do well here. The people who vacation down here don't seem to be very adventurous when it comes to food. The most popular places are the ones selling deep fried imported frozen fish (never mind the Gulf of Mexico is literally feet away.)

    There was a steamed buns joint down by the beach that lasted about a year. It got rave reviews but was always a ghost town during the peak tourist season. There's our first craft brewery, and it doesn't seem to be doing all that well, either. Ditto the rolled ice cream shops that are suddenly popular for some mysterious reason.

    Of course, I'm of the mind that anyone who wants a good ice cream is better off going to Rita's or Culver's for frozen custard, but I seem to be in the minority there. Everyone goes to this one tiny little ice cream shop that proudly sells… Blue Bunny. Same shit you get in the supermarket! In the summer, the lines are 75 people deep there, and I just shake my head and wonder why. I don't get that tourist mindset. When I used to vacation, it was to seek out foods I could never get back home.
    You can't spell "hatred" without "red hat".

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    WAWA unknown. Just 7/11s round these parts.
    Good for little dishes of fresh fruit. And slurrpys.

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    Quote Originally Posted by phillygirl View Post
    One of the trademarks of Wawa...customers will hold the door for everyone...then try to run you down in the terrible parking lots!
    What an odd concept, at least to me. Literally everyone holds doors open for everyone else around here, and have for as long as I can remember. Not limited to convenience stores: this happens everywhere that a door is not revolving (relatively few around here, mostly limited to large office buildings and a few hotels) or automatic (growing, but still not entirely commonplace outside of hospitals and grocery stores; I remember being fascinated as a kid stepping on the big black rubber mat at H. G. Hill's grocery and the door would open by itself).

    Maybe that's why there are no WaWas around here: there's no "hook" about holding doors open when it happens everywhere else all the time.
    Leftists have unquestionably demonstrated their hatred for due process, and Democrats have undeniably obstructed justice for, and thoroughly victim-shamed and smeared, Karen Monahan.

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