Video: Wawa celebrates its 50th anniversary and announces new foundation

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Fifty years ago, Wawa, Inc. opened its   first store at 1212 MacDade Boulevard in Folsom, Pa., near the Philadelphia International Airport.

In honor of this  milestone, Wawa is kicking-off its 50th anniversary in retail this  week at the original store and in Philadelphia.

Wawa’s former President and CEO and current Vice Chairman, Howard Stoeckel  will launch  the sale of his book, “The Wawa Way, How a funny name and six core values revolutionized convenience,”  will be  available in all Wawa stores.

“2014 is a milestone year for Wawa, in more ways than one! We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary in retail and the release of a book written by our former President and CEO, Howard Stoeckel; we’re launching The Wawa Foundation; and we’re celebrating the grand opening of 45 new stores,” said Chris Gheysens, Wawa’s  CEO. “We’re moving full-steam ahead and could not be more excited to celebrate the customers and associates who have made this success possible, and share our exciting plans to fulfill customers’ lives in new and meaningful ways well into the future.”

The  chain has announced, in conjunction with the anniversary, The Wawa Foundation, a new entity founded by Wawa to support Wawa’s charitable giving and philanthropic activities. The Wawa Foundation’s purpose is to fulfill lives every day, by building stronger communities. Over the next five years, Wawa and The Wawa Foundation, together, have committed $50 million to support causes related to the Foundation’s three key areas of focus- health, hunger, and  every day heroes.

Today,  Stoeckel’s book, The Wawa Way officially goes on sale through Amazon and in all Wawa stores. The book chronicles the stories, events, customers, and associates, that have defined the last 50 years, and offers what he sees as Wawa’s secrets for success.

“The Wawa Way is not simply a motto, a slogan, or the title of a business book– it’s a way of life, a guide for valuing people, and a road map for building long-standing community relationships. So it’s no coincidence that on the occasion of our 50th Anniversary, this book becomes a reality,” said Stoeckel. “Our goal has never been to simply meet expectations; we take pride in what we do and have an unwavering compassion for our fellow associates and customers alike. Every day we strive to exceed expectations, and ultimately fulfill customers’ lives. This book is more than just a business book; it’s a book that shares the heart and soul of our company.”

Wawa, Inc., a privately held company, began in 1803 as an iron foundry in New Jersey. Toward the end of the 19th Century, owner George Wood took an interest in dairy farming and the family began a small processing plant in Wawa, PA, in 1902. The milk business was a   success, due to its quality, cleanliness and “certified” process.

As home delivery of milk declined in the early 1960’s, Grahame Wood, George’s grandson, opened the first Wawa Food Market in 1964 as an outlet for dairy products. It was a move undertaken by many dairies, but few were as successful as Wawa.

Wawa is now a  chain of more than 635 convenience retail stores . Wawa stores are located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia and central Florida. In the latter part of the 1990s, it sold a couple of dozen stores in Connecticut.  In recent years, it has moved into Maryland and Virginia, with plans to further expand in Florida,  a state with many former residents from the Philadelphia area.

It has not ventured into central and western Pennsylvania, an area where rival Sheetz dominates the market. Sheetz has expanded into full kitchens and other features that Wawa is likely to use in future stores.

The stores offer a  fresh food service selection, including Wawa brands such as built-to-order hoagies,  coffee, hot breakfast sandwiches,  specialty beverages, and an assortment of soups, sides and snacks. Sales are believed total about $7 billion. The company has ties to Delaware’s duPont family by marriage.  A duPont-Wood family member, in recent years,  held senior executive positions, but is no longer with Wawa.

Wawa Is headquartered near its dairy in Delaware County, Pa. about 17 miles northeast of Wilmington. Of late, the company has been more aggressive in adding stores in Delaware, snapping up  locations in high-traffic areas as smaller Baltimore rival Royal Farms invades its turf.

In the meantime, long-time chain Cumberland Farms is exiting the market, with 7-11 standing pat and not building the latest generation of convenience stores and gas stations in the state.

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