Wawa, Inc. (// WAH-WAH) is an American chain of convenience stores and gas stations located along the East Coast of the United States, operating in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Florida. The company's corporate headquarters is located in the Wawa area of Chester Heights, Pennsylvania in Greater Philadelphia. As of 2008, Wawa was the largest convenience store chain in Greater Philadelphia, and it is also the third-largest retailer of food in Greater Philadelphia, after ACME Markets and ShopRite.
Wawa gas station in Skippack, Pennsylvania
|Founded||April 16, 1964|
Number of locations
|842 stores (2019)|
|Chris Gheysens (CEO)|
Number of employees
|Parent||Wild Goose Holding Co.|
The Wawa business began in 1803 as an iron foundry. In 1890, George Wood, an entrepreneur from New Jersey, moved to Delaware County, Pennsylvania; it was here that he began the Wawa Dairy Farm. Wood imported cows from the British Crown dependency island of Guernsey, and bought 1,000 acres (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 faced sickness from consuming raw milk. Wood arranged for doctors to certify his milk was sanitary and safe for consumption, which convinced many consumers to buy the product. The 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.
In the 1960s, however, many consumers began buying milk in stores instead of using home delivery. Wawa started to open its own stores to adjust to these market changes. On April 16, 1964, Grahame Wood, George Wood's grandson, opened the first Wawa Food Market at 1212 MacDade Boulevard in Folsom, Pennsylvania, which remained in operation until June 17, 2016, when it closed in favor of a new "Super Wawa" down the street. A parade was held from the original location to the new store on opening day.
The Wawa Food Market stores were also part of a then-new trend in retailing, the convenience store. Open both earlier and later than traditional supermarkets, they 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, Wawa formalized its associate ownership with its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), with stock being awarded to associates annually based on the prior year's service. Because the company is privately held, Wawa secures an independent assessment of its stock value at regular intervals to ensure that the ESOP is fairly maintained. Today, the ESOP accounts for more than 40% of Wawa stock.
Name and logo
The chain's name comes from the site of the company's first milk plant and corporate headquarters in the Wawa, Pennsylvania area. The name of the town Wawa is in turn derived from the Ojibwe word for the Canada goose (taken from The Song of Hiawatha). An image of a goose in flight serves as the Wawa corporate logo. It is said that the goose was chosen because the company employs the principles of teamwork, group consensus, and encouragement.
The current CEO of Wawa is Chris Gheysens, who succeeded Howard Stoeckel in January 2013. Eleuthère (Thère) du Pont has served as both the CFO and president, but is no longer associated with the company. Richard D. (Dick) Wood, Jr. is chairman of the board of directors. Many Wood family members are active in the company. Although Wawa is a family-run business, Wawa associates own roughly 50% of the company, more than 40% of which is owned through the company's employee stock-ownership program.
Holdings and locations
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). As of 2008, Wawa's New Jersey stores were concentrated mostly in South Jersey.
As of 1989 Wawa Inc. and the Wood family together control about 725 acres (293 ha) of land, containing the corporate headquarters, the Wawa dairy farm, and J.T. Farms, within two municipalities in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The properties are located in Chester Heights and Middletown Township. Wawa Inc. owns 50 acres (20 ha) of land around "Red Roof," the corporate headquarters, 150 acres (61 ha) of land around the Wawa dairy, and the 225-acre (91 ha) J.T. Farms. The Wood family owns 300 acres (120 ha) of estate property. Cynthia Mayer of the Philadelphia Inquirer said that, as a result of the land holdings, the Wood family was "the closest thing to a feudal barony this side of du Pont."
Beginning in the 1940s, the dairy facility began selling excess parcels of land. In 1964, it sold about 40 acres to the Franklin Mint. Several years prior to 1989, the dairy sold 25 acres of land to a retirement complex, Granite Farms Estates. The process of selling excess land continued sporadically.
Wawa Inc. owns the 225-acre J.T. Farms, a separate farm property. As of 1989 Wawa Inc. leases it to Bill Faul, who maintained a herd of 100 Holstein cattle and paid $1,500 (currently $2778.12) per month. Wawa continued to own the farm due to symbolic reasons. It also kept heifers along Route 1 in a strip of land adjacent to the plant which did not produce milk; Fritz Schroeder, then-vice president of Wawa Inc., said in 1989, "[w]e like them for the ambiance."
Wawa, for the most part, covers parts of Pennsylvania not already served by fast-growing rival stores Sheetz and Kroger-owned Turkey Hill. Wawa is often compared to Sheetz due to their similar business models and Pennsylvania roots.
The company's corporate headquarters is located in the Wawa area, along Baltimore Pike in Chester Heights. The headquarters is in proximity to Middletown Township. As of 2011 about 300 employees work in the headquarters. The Borough of Chester Heights receives a majority of its local services tax from employees of Wawa.
Programs and promotions
Wawa provides surcharge-free ATMs, the result of a partnership with PNC Bank that began in 1985. Wawa implemented the program in stores in 1996. In 2010, Wawa surpassed 1 billion transactions under the PNC brand.
In the late 1980s and through the 1990s, Wawa engaged in a scholarship sponsorship program that involved Irish students (mainly from UCC in Cork, Ireland) running some stores on the Pennsylvania Main Line, allowing the students to study for their MBAs from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
In 1994, Wawa opened a store in Center City, Philadelphia, which sold food only.
In 1994, Wawa debuted the "Super Wawa", larger stores with public restrooms and more parking. Gasoline pumps were added in 1996. On October 21, 2010, Wawa began testing the sale of diesel fuel at 12 of its New Jersey locations due to an increasing number of cars using this fuel.
In the 2000s, Wawa was among the first stores to implement self-serve computer touch-screen menus for food orders, in an attempt to improve order accuracy, speed and for upselling.
In 2003, Wawa and McLane Co. reached a 30-year agreement to construct a distribution center in Carney's Point, New Jersey, to handle the majority of Wawa's distribution. The center began operation in May 2004.
In 2005, Wawa partnered with JPMorgan Chase to offer a Visa credit card branded with the Wawa name. It ceased issuing new cards in December 2007 and the program was canceled in November 2010. Wawa would later partner with Citi to restart the Wawa credit card program.
Wawa moved into social media to connect with its customers, and in 2006, its "I Love Wawa" MySpace page had over 5,000 members. By the middle of 2013, its Facebook page had reached nearly 1.1 million likes.
On June 30, 2010, 20 Wawa locations in Pennsylvania started a trial of selling Pennsylvania Lottery tickets from automated kiosks. On December 6, 2010, it announced that all 210 Pennsylvania Wawa locations would sell lottery tickets from kiosks by spring 2011.
Wawa offers products found at most convenience chain marts such as chips, drinks, and soda. Wawa also sells its own branded iced tea, orange juice, and milk. Wawa used to sell its own branded soda but it has been discontinued. Wawa has Coca-Cola Freestyle soda fountains.
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, Virginia, and at one Pennsylvania location in Chadds Ford.
In 2018, Wawa introduced a secret menu to celebrate its 54th anniversary. It can be accessed by tapping the flapping goose in the bottom left corner of the ordering screen. As of June 2018, it contains a Birthday Cake Smoothie, a Birthday Cake Milkshake, and a Mac & Cheese Cheesesteak.
Wawa operates stores in Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Wawa's territory once stretched into New York and Connecticut, but in the late 1990s, the decision was made to abandon the franchised stores in the New York metropolitan area and New England, as it was too competitive. The abandoned stores were re-branded when they were sold to Krauszer's (in Connecticut) and a variety of other convenience retailers, but most are still recognizable as they retain their distinctive "Wawa" design. The company continued to operate numerous stores in Central Jersey and South Jersey, and re-entered North Jersey in 2010, when Wawa opened a new store in Parsippany. Wawa opened its 100th Super Wawa in New Jersey on October 12, 2012 in Woodbridge. Wawa moved farther into North Jersey opening in Kearny on January 11, 2013 and Lodi on October 4, 2013. The company plans to open five Wawas a year in North Jersey for the next 10 to 12 years.
On July 18, 2012, Wawa entered the Florida market when it opened its first location in Orlando. It had expanded to more than 70 Florida locations by the end of 2015, with plans for 120 more by 2022.
In some Jersey Shore towns, Wawa designs its stores to match the aesthetic, and changes operating procedures to adapt to shore culture. In Cape May, Wawa has a Victorian-themed store. In Wildwood, there is a 1950s-themed store.
Wawa opened its largest location at the time in the Farragut Square area of Washington, D.C. on December 14, 2017. On December 14, 2018, Wawa opened a flagship location at 6th Street and Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. The store, at 11,500 square feet (1,070 m2), is the largest Wawa location and features a living greenery wall, large digital screens, couches, café seating, and two "Philly Firsts" murals.
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