Why Wawa is the Greatest Convenience Store of Them All
Also one of the best chain logos.
Is it rational to drive 15 miles out of my way for a convenience store sandwich? To insist on three or four visits, over the course of a weekend in New Jersey? To feel loyalty toward a convenience store at all? Yes, I would argue, when said convenience store is Wawa.
Of all the lower tiers of eating in America—movie theater concessions, mall food courts, economy class at 30,000 feet—convenience stores must rank right at the bottom. The stale steak taquitos, spinning greasily in their warmer. The soggy refrigerated sandwiches. The palpable layer of grime.
But Wawa—the finest gas-station-cum-sub-shop the Mid-Atlantic has ever known—is the antithesis of such soulless establishments. The chain of more than 600 convenience stores, about half of them with attached gas stations, began in Pennsylvania, but now extends across New Jersey and beyond, and it’s become as much a Jersey icon as a hometown Pennsylvania hero. The first Wawa Food Market opened in Folsom, Pennsylvania, in 1964, as an outlet to sell dairy from owner Grahame Wood’s farm. 50 years later, coffee and sandwiches are their stock in trade, plus more expected convenience store offerings: sodas, candy, potato chips. (So, so many kinds of potato chips.)
To say that Wawa has a cult following in the region would be an understatement. Wawa ranks up there with In-n-Out and Trader Joe’s for the zealotry of its fans. Philly Magazine cites Wawa devotees with the logo tattooed onto their skin; a group of women who visited every Wawa in the country; a couple who married at the Wawa where they first met.
Don’t ask ‘wa.