Many Americans only know about Wawa convenience stores because of “The Goldbergs” TV sitcom. Set in a Philadelphia suburb in the 1980s, Barry Goldberg and his buddies (known as the Jenkintown Posse, or simply the JTP) often hung out at a Wawa. This convenience store chain with the funny name is not fictional, though. It is a very real part of daily life for hundreds of thousands of people in the eastern United States. (The company’s Facebook page has 1.3 million followers.) Here’s a look at the states where Wawa locations can be found, and why so many residents in those states are inordinately devoted to a convenience store. (If your kitchen is bare and you need more than a convenience store run, here’s a look at the biggest grocery store chains in North America.)
In most of the U.S. (and in much of the world, for that matter), a gas station is just a gas station. It’s a place to fill up your car, maybe grab a snack, and then be on your way without ever giving a thought to the name on the sign. It could be a Marathon, Shell, or BP station, but it doesn’t much matter to most customers. Each station offers an experience that is nearly indistinguishable from the others. However, there are some convenience stores that are much more than gas stations, as seen by their devoted fanbases. For example, there is Casey’s General Store in the Midwest with its famous pizza. Buc-ee’s in the South boasts an especially rabid fan base (brisket, anyone?). And in the east, Wawa devotees will bristle at anyone who dares to refer to their beloved stores as mere “gas stations.”
History of Wawa
Wawa started, not as a convenience store, but rather as a New Jersey iron foundry in 1803. Money from the foundry was used to start Wawa Dairy in 1902. It was named after its location in Wawa, Pennsylvania. “Wawa” is an Ojibwe Native American word that refers to the Canada goose. That is why there is a goose in the convenience store’s logo. The company’s headquarters are still located in Wawa today.
Wawa Dairy produced and bottled milk from certified Guernsey cows. Food safety was the utmost concern in the early 20th century, especially with dairy products. The rigorous quality control at Wawa Dairy earned the trust of consumers throughout the Philadelphia area. That commitment to exceptionally high standards still drives the company today.
As grocery stores with refrigerated sections began squeezing dairy delivery companies out of business, Wawa pivoted and opened its first store in Folsom, Pennsylvania in 1964. Five years later, the company was operating stores in New Jersey and Delaware as well as Pennsylvania.
So Much to Love About Wawa
Today, Wawa is famous for, among other things, its absurdly clean stores. And yes, that includes the restrooms. It offers other next-level customer service options, too, such as free air for your tires, fee-free ATMs, and stores that are open 24/7/365.
The chain is beloved for its sandwiches, especially its built-to-order hoagies. Customers have been using touchscreens to order their Wawa hoagies since 2002, long before touchscreens became a ubiquitous part of our lives.
Along with Wawa’s signature hoagies, you can also order pizza, burgers, chicken, salads, soups, and much more. The restaurant-quality food is nothing like you will find at a “gas station.” It is so good, in fact, that loyal customers will plan a night out that purposefully includes dinner at Wawa. Couples often visit the convenience store during date nights. Heck, there have even been weddings held at Wawa stores. No one is getting married at the local Exxon station, right? Wawa and its fans are just built differently.
And then there’s the coffee. The proprietary blends served in the stores can only be found at Wawa. An average Wawa coffee station has around 100 ingredients you can use to create the perfect cup of joe. You can also order true hand-pulled espresso drinks at many Wawas that might make you forget all about that Seattle-based coffee chain.
Where Are All the Wawas?
So where can you find this exemplar of convenience store excellence? There are over 1,000 Wawa stores in six states and Washington, D.C. That number is always on the rise. Five more grand openings are planned for the end of November alone. Wawa also plans to expand into seven more states in the next five years. Locations have been selected in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. Some sites are scheduled to open as early as 2024, with construction already underway.
Until these new locations open, here are the only places where you can get your Wawa fix (location numbers via Scrapehero).
- Wawa locations: 5
- Wawa locations: 48
- Wawa locations: 63
- Wawa locations: 109
- Wawa locations: 250
- Wawa locations: 267
- Wawa locations: 285
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