A quick coffee in the morning, a delicious Hoagie for lunch and gas in the evening. What more can you want from a local convenience store, or one stop shops for those living on the East Coast. Better than a 7-Eleven. Here are the Top 10 Untold Truths of Wawa Convenience Stores.
10. A Cult Brand
Whoa! Whaaa! As obscure as it may sound, for many consumers living on the East Coast, from Philadelphia to New Jersey, Wawa is a local convenience store that’s bustling with daily activity. It’s not just a place to pick up coffee and gas in the morning, milk on the way home, or a sandwich and snack for lunch. Wawa is a way of life. Widely popular, it has a distinct cult following. The company was named after a small town in Pennsylvania where it first began and the word, which actually derives from an Ojibwe Native American word meaning Canada goose is not to be mistaken with the town of the same name in Ontario Canada. Wawa convenience stores are very different from a 7-Eleven, for many reasons. For one, they’re much better than the 7-Eleven and it is a proven fact. Just walk into one to understand why. Their customer base is confined to a narrow niche in Mid Atlantic America, their clients are extremely loyal and defensive of the brand and the company is a private family run business. So obscure yet their annual revenue exceeds $10 billion dollars, second in place to 7-Eleven. Wawa, was also one of the first convenience stores to sell hot food, starting as far back as 1964. It beat 7-Eleven ‘s to the punch here, who only began serving pizza in 2009. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, coffee and gas all day makes for a great pit stop anytime. Over the years it’s become much more than a store in many small communities where Wawa’s prevail, it has become a trustworthy household name that gives back tenfold to the community.
9. Wawa’s Humble Beginnings
George Wood of New Jersey invested in 1000 acres of land to start a dairy farm in Chester Heights and Delaware County, in Pennsylvania in 1890, the area where he established his corporate headquarters was later renamed Wawa. The dairy company slowly grew as the demand for milk increased in the 1920’s. Wawa’s first slogan “Buy Health by the Bottle” catered to sickly children and their families by delivering milk to customers’ homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for 40 years. In the 60’s many people started buying milk from local stores and Wawa opened its own to adjust to consumer’s needs. In 1964, the first Wawa Food Market opened in Folsom, Pennsylvania, where it remained in operation till 2016, when it closed to make way for a new “Super Wawa” down the street. The Wawa Food Market stores were part of a new trend in retailing, as they were open earlier and later than regular grocery stores. George Wood opened three more that year. Although growth has been slow, it continues steadily, but it has a lot more to offer than just food. It now has almost 800 locations and 30,000 employees in six states. Times have changed for this company, from their humble beginnings to what they represent today. Everyone loves them, but don’t get your hopes up high and think Wawa is going to set up shop near you anytime soon, they keep a close eye on competitors, but time has taught them valuable lessons and they are careful not to expand too quickly into different markets or states.
8. Wawa the Community Hub
One of the untold truths of Wawa is that it is more of a community hub than a convenience store. Don’t be surprised if you visit a local Wawa and the neighbors are congregating there morning, noon and night. Honestly it’s more of a hangout than a store. Located in small towns, it has become an epicenter for many daily meetings and a place to swap stories while picking up food. Wawa customers are so loyal and love it so much they even wrote a song about it. To an outsider, Wawa seems like just another convenience store, but to residents it’s like a family and they want to keep it that way. Wawa is also a big community supporter aside from just selling milk. It’s the Wawa culture to invest in employees and customers. They have annual food drives, donate to charity and have scholarship programs. Don’t be surprised if while visiting Wawa, you here a song like “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge playing on the speakers as neighbors cheer firefighters during a hoagie making contest. During the holidays, they have food drives to support employees and customers in need. Whether it’s helping out store associates or donating thousands of dollars to charity, many Wawa stores take pride in their communities.
7. Fantastic Coffee Bar
The coffee station is bountiful, something crucial to a well-regarded highway pit stop. Espressos and lattes are offered in addition to the wide range of blends. Starbucks move over, Wawa’s a good place to get coffee. For those die-hard coffee aficionados, this is blasphemy, convenience store coffee is never good right? But don’t kid yourself, in times of need a Wawa coffee is just fine and you would actually be surprised at how good it is. Made fresh all day long, they have every flavor you can think of, from 100% Columbian to a smooth dark Cuban Roast. They have decaf and crowd-pleasing flavors like French Vanilla, Hazelnut and Pumpkin Spice. There’s something for everyone, and if you’re not sure where to start, most stores will have a stack of little sample cups for free sampling. Originally coffee was served in glass carafes like coffee shops of yore, but today they have dispensers. Wawa sells 195 million cups a year. Every year they introduce new flavors. This year for a limited time they’ll be serving a Reserve Guatemala certified Fair Trade, Organic coffee sourced from a world-renowned growing region of the Guatemalan highlands. Every time they have a new release it becomes the most popular flavor. From the very beginning, keeping up with consumer trends and customer demands has been part of Wawa’s culture. If you can’t get to a Wawa, they sell it by the pound on Amazon, so you can brew Wawa premium coffee at home using their exclusive blends of freshly ground beans. Freshness Guaranteed!
6. Wawa and the Perfect Iced Tea
Also, very popular at Wawa’s, is their own signature brand of iced teas, which have also garnished quite a reputation. One of their greatest achievements is their ever-expanding line of bottled iced teas. They’re made with brewed iced tea and real sugar with no artificial sweeteners. Their selection is extensive and has everything from simple regular iced tea or diet, and extra sweet or unsweetened, lemonade flavored iced tea, green tea and other funky flavors flavors like peach raspberry, tangerine, mango and chilled chai. People love their large square gallon containers with an easy to grip handle, they would grab these out of the fridge with a salty pretzel to go every time. Wawa also sells other drinks like sodas, colorful flavored lemonade and chilled coffees. They also used to sell their own brand of soda and energy drinks called Mach W, and Wawa bottled water to go with their famous hoagies, but this has been discontinued. In Florida, as well as South Jersey, Wawa became a must pit stop for beach goers stocking up on cool drinks before heading to the beach in the summer. Siptopia, a limited marketing campaign launched in Florida in 2017 was a big hit, offered 16 oz beverages, from cold brew coffee, to lattes and frozen smoothies for under a buck ninety nine. It returns every year in the month of July. But as far as gas-station-branded beverages go, it doesn’t get much better than this.
5. The Best Hoagies in Town
Wawa sells more than 5 million hoagies a year. How do they do it! Easy, Wawa hoagies have got to be some of the best around. Not only are their hoagies a super quick fix, they’re delicious. They offer an extensive variety compared to their competitors and their BUILT-to-ORDER hoagies are made fresh on the spot at a reasonable price point. They come in three sizes: A Junior Hoagie at 4-inches, the Shorty, at 6-inches, and a Classic Hoagie at 10-inches. The Gobbler is by far their best seller. It’s comfort on a roll, a roast turkey sandwich with gravy, stuffing, and cranberry. Thanksgiving all wrapped up in a bun. The classic Italian hoagie, is a benchmark sandwich, folded hot ham, thin-sliced salami, lettuce, onion, tomato and provolone. The Meatball sandwich also is a strong contender here, but the epitome has got to be the Cheesesteak. A hot, gooey, crazily salty mess, it can be one of the greatest things in the world, especially when you have a craving and everything else is closed. Synonymous with Philly, were Philly cheesesteaks reign supreme. But Wawa doesn’t stop here, it has melts, wraps, flat breads, quesadillas and burritos. For the mornings, they have Sizzli Breakfast Sandwiches, available in all your favorite varieties, including Sausage, Egg & Cheese, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Turkey Sausage, and plain Egg White.
4. Wawa Digital Ordering
For a small family run private business Wawa has done pretty well. Instead of some grandiose expansion scheme, Wawa’s kept low key, limited expansion to only certain states. Meanwhile, they’ve managed over the years to have a slow steady stream of profit, never shaking things up a too much and their formula has proven track record here. Their stores are clean, streamlined and not in your face loud. In 1994, even as Wawa debuted the larger “Super Wawa” stores, they kept their pulse on the mainstream market. They made their larger stores more accessible to consumers by increasing the size of parking lots and have even added public restrooms to keep the customers in the store longer. In 1996, they added gas pumps, which increased their profits substantially. But did you know that as early as the 2000s, Wawa was among one of the first convenience stores to implement self-serve computer touch-screen menus for food orders? They did this to improve accuracy of orders and to speed up take-out service and in turn increase sales. Pretty innovative for a small company. In 2004, they also built a large distribution center for efficient processing and distribution of goods to their outlets. The next year, they started a Wawa credit card program and a social media page to better connect to their customers. But Wawa’s touch-screen sandwich ordering system remains one of the greatest achievements, even though it decreases the need for human interaction. This might sound somewhat counter intuitive, it is not a deterrent to bring people to the stores, bottom line they seem unaffected.
3. We Are Family
Even though Wawa is a family company, and had remained private all these years. Did you know that Dick Wood, the second and longest-serving chief executive officer of Wawa, for 54 years, actually started splitting off the company to non-family members? With a lot of family in-fighting, recessions, and several failed expansion attempts, Wawa spent a lot of the 1990s learning from their failures. And a few short-lived attempts to sell products from Taco Bell and Pizza Hut hurt their bottom line. Wood believed that the best way to ensure Wawa’s future was to separate it from its founding family. His was correct and it paid off, Wawa is still growing. It now has almost 800 locations and 30,000 employees in six states. Wood also split the company between two separate family trusts, when they tried to go public. His back up plan in 1992, was to reward longtime employees. He started an employee stock-ownership program, or ESOP. Wawa bought back some of the family shares and asked employees to start switching some of their retirement funds from Wawa’s 401(k) plan to the ESOP. The workers did and fifteen years later, many are retiring as millionaires.
2. Wawa University
It’s not just the sandwiches and coffee that set Wawa apart from the rest. Aside from being great philanthropists, donating to their community annually with food drives and keeping employees happy by helping out with their bills, Wawa trie to educate and help out in every way. Did you know they even have their own University? A Harvard Business Journal review singled out “Wawa’s rigorous employee training program as one that resulted in a strong customer service culture.” That training was initially developed through a program with Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s University, but the company now handles training on its own at the Wawa University. The company training program will guide you with courses and continuing education programs, off site and with on the job training to meet your needs from basic training to leadership skills. This allows employees to strengthen their career potential and achieve their goals. Have you ever noticed how Wawa store employees are not only great with customers but nice with each other? No cat fights or competitive back stabbing attitudes in the food aisles.
1. Too many Slogans
You may think Wawa is wishy washy with all the times they’ve changed their slogans. They’re having a hard time finding their niche here. But there is a method to their madness. Some past slogans included the likes of “Mama I Luv Wawa,” in 1960 – boasting a baby on the ad who wanted his “country fresh milk”, to ‘Wawa Food Markets for People on the Go” catering to those with a busy lifestyle in the 1970’s. The 80’s to the 90’s saw the likes of “We do it just a little better” and “One great taste after another” emphasizing their popularity with the masses. And now in the 21st century, Wawa’s brought in independence with “My Choice, My Wawa,” and “Gottahava Wawa.” Despite all these slogan changes, the Canadian goose has stayed a prominent fixture on the brand. These days their logo is simple with their flagship colors of yellow and brown and red and their traditional mascot. It’s said that the goose was chosen because the company employs the principles of teamwork, group consensus, and encouragement. Gottaluv that Wawa!