Wawa (company)

Last updated

Wawa, Inc.
Private business
FoundedApril 16, 1964;55 years ago (1964-04-16)
FounderGrahame Wood
United States [1]
Number of locations
842 stores (2019) [2] [3]
Key people
Chris Gheysens (CEO) [4]
  • Coffee
  • Hoagies
  • Prepared foods
  • Gasoline
  • Beverages
  • Snacks
  • Dairy products
RevenueIncrease2.svg US$10.6 billion (2017) [1]
Increase2.svg US$118 million (2011) [5]
Total assets Increase2.svg US$1.57 billion (2011) [5]
Number of employees
31,000 (2017) [1]
Parent Wild Goose Holding Co.
Website www.wawa.com

Wawa, Inc. ( /wɑːwɑː/ 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. [6] 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. [7] [8]

Convenience store small store that stocks a range of everyday items

A convenience store, convenience shop, or corner store is a small retail business that stocks a range of everyday items such as coffee, groceries, snack foods, confectionery, soft drinks, tobacco products, over-the-counter drugs, toiletries, newspapers, and magazines. In some jurisdictions, convenience stores are licensed to sell alcohol, although many such jurisdictions limit such beverages to those with relatively low alcoholic content such as beer and wine. Such stores may also offer money order and wire transfer services, along with the use of a fax machine or photocopier for a small per-copy cost. They differ from general stores and village shops in that they are not in a rural location and are used as a convenient supplement to larger stores.

East Coast of the United States Coastline in the United States

The East Coast of the United States, also known as the Eastern Seaboard, the Atlantic Coast, and the Atlantic Seaboard, is the coastline along which the Eastern United States meets the North Atlantic Ocean. The coastal states that have shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean are, from north to south, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.



Old Wawa logo used from 1990 to 2004. This logo is still in use at many locations. WAWA.gif
Old Wawa logo used from 1990 to 2004. This logo is still in use at many locations.

The Wawa business began in 1803 as an iron foundry. [6] In 1890, George Wood, an entrepreneur from New Jersey, [9] moved to Delaware County, Pennsylvania; it was here that he began the Wawa Dairy Farm. [9] 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; [9] 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. [9] 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.

Foundry factory that produces metal castings

A foundry is a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal into a mold, and removing the mold material after the metal has solidified as it cools. The most common metals processed are aluminium and cast iron. However, other metals, such as bronze, brass, steel, magnesium, and zinc, are also used to produce castings in foundries. In this process, parts of desired shapes and sizes can be formed.

New Jersey U.S. state in the United States

New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is a peninsula, bordered on the north and east by the state of New York; on the east, southeast, and south by the Atlantic Ocean; on the west by the Delaware River and Pennsylvania; and on the southwest by the Delaware Bay and Delaware. New Jersey is the fourth-smallest state by area but the 11th-most populous, with 9 million residents as of 2017, making it the most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states with its biggest city being Newark. New Jersey lies completely within the combined statistical areas of New York City and Philadelphia. New Jersey was the second-wealthiest U.S. state by median household income as of 2017.

Delaware County, Pennsylvania County in Pennsylvania, United States

Delaware County, colloquially referred to as Delco, is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. With a population of 562,960, it is the fifth most populous county in Pennsylvania, and the third smallest in area. The county was created on September 26, 1789, from part of Chester County, and named for the Delaware River.

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. [6] [9] On April 16, 1964, Grahame Wood, George Wood's grandson, opened the first Wawa Food Market at 1212 MacDade Boulevard in Folsom, Pennsylvania, [10] 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. [8] [11] [12]

Folsom, Pennsylvania Census-designated place in Pennsylvania, United States

Folsom is a census-designated place (CDP) in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is part of Ridley Township. The population was 8,323 at the 2010 census.

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.

Supermarket large form of the traditional grocery store

A supermarket is a self-service shop offering a wide variety of food, beverages and household products, organized into sections and shelves. It is larger and has a wider selection than earlier grocery stores, but is smaller and more limited in the range of merchandise than a hypermarket or big-box market.

The old Wawa Dairy Farms building in Wawa, Pennsylvania Wawa Dairy Farms.JPG
The old Wawa Dairy Farms building in Wawa, Pennsylvania

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.

An Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in the United States is a defined contribution plan, a form of retirement plan as defined by 4975(e)(7)of IRS codes, which became a qualified retirement plan in 1974. It is one of the methods of employee participation in corporate ownership.


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 ).[ citation needed ] 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.

Wawa, Pennsylvania Unincorporated community in Pennsylvania, United States

Wawa is an unincorporated community located in Delaware County, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania in Greater Philadelphia, partially in Middletown Township and partially in Chester Heights Borough.

Ojibwe Group of indigenous peoples in North America

The Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Chippewa, or Saulteaux are an Anishinaabe people of Canada and the northern Midwestern United States. They are one of the most numerous indigenous peoples north of the Rio Grande. In Canada, they are the second-largest First Nations population, surpassed only by the Cree. In the United States, they have the fifth-largest population among Native American peoples, surpassed in number only by the Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw and Sioux.

Canada goose Species of goose native to Northern Hemisphere

The Canada goose is a large wild goose species with a black head and neck, white cheeks, white under its chin, and a brown body. Native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, its migration occasionally reaches northern Europe. It has been introduced to the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. Like most geese, the Canada goose is primarily herbivorous and normally migratory; it tends to be found on or close to fresh water.


The current CEO of Wawa is Chris Gheysens, who succeeded Howard Stoeckel in January 2013. [4] [13] 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. [14]

Holdings and locations

A typical Wawa gas station in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania Wawa gas station Willow Grove PA.jpeg
A typical Wawa gas station in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania

In 2015, Wawa ranked 34th on the Forbes magazine list of the largest private companies, with total revenues of $9.68 billion. [15] As of 2016, Wawa employs over 22,000 people [6] [15] in 720+ stores (450+ offering gasoline). [16] As of 2008, Wawa's New Jersey stores were concentrated mostly in South Jersey. [17]

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." [9]

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." [18]

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. [19]

Corporate headquarters

"Red Roof" at Wawa headquarters in Chester Heights, Pennsylvania Wawa Red Roof.JPG
"Red Roof" at Wawa headquarters in Chester Heights, Pennsylvania

The company's corporate headquarters is located in the Wawa area, along Baltimore Pike [20] [21] in Chester Heights. [22] [23] The headquarters is in proximity to Middletown Township. [24] 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. [22]

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. [25]

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. [26]

A Wawa coffee bar counter with different flavors. A staple of Wawa stores for years, the glass carafes were replaced with coffee dispensers around 2010. Wawa coffee bar.jpg
A Wawa coffee bar counter with different flavors. A staple of Wawa stores for years, the glass carafes were replaced with coffee dispensers around 2010.

In 1994, Wawa opened a store in Center City, Philadelphia, which sold food only. [27]

In 1994, Wawa debuted the "Super Wawa", larger stores with public restrooms and more parking. Gasoline pumps were added in 1996. [28] [10] 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. [29]

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. [30]

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. [31] [32] The center began operation in May 2004. [32]

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. [33] Wawa would later partner with Citi to restart the Wawa credit card program. [34]

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. [35]

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. [36] [37]

On April 16, 2014, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Wawa gave away free coffee and launched a nonprofit foundation to donate $50 million to health and hunger initiatives. [38]


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. [39] [40]

For a short time between 1994 and 1996, Wawa sold Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizzas and Taco Bell burritos. [27]

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.

Store locations

Wawa footprint as of July 2012 Wawa footprint 2012-07.png
Wawa footprint as of July 2012

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. [41] Wawa opened its 100th Super Wawa in New Jersey on October 12, 2012 in Woodbridge. [42] 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. [43]

On July 18, 2012, Wawa entered the Florida market when it opened its first location in Orlando. [44] It had expanded to more than 70 Florida locations by the end of 2015, with plans for 120 more by 2022. [45]

As of May 2018, Wawa has over 800 locations across Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. [2]

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. [46]

Wawa opened its largest location at the time in the Farragut Square area of Washington, D.C. on December 14, 2017. [47] 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. [48]

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Further reading