It’s a Wawa World

Forget Comcast and Sunoco—the most powerful economic force in Philadelphia these days is the one making your Shorti. How our homegrown convenience store went from cult favorite … to superpower

MAYBE THE HARSHEST RESISTANCE Wawa has met lately concerns its most curious project, back in Millville, where it had its primordial days. Beginning in the 1800s in South Jersey, the Wood family at different times produced textiles, glass and ironworks.

“We joke that we used to make cannonballs and now we make meatballs,” Stoeckel says. The Woods built factories along Millville’s Maurice River and put in a dam that created Union Lake, New Jersey’s second largest, which the company owned until 1982. Wawa still owns 390 lakeside acres—about a mile of shoreline—and has been planning a massive real estate development. What is it—a Wawaland amusement park? No, mostly retail stores and gated residential communities. Wawa says it’s not getting into a new business, just trying to make use of this legacy land it’s owned forever by leasing it to developers.

Matt Blake, an environmentalist with the American Littoral Society, gave me a tour of the area. Union Lake is spectacular and peaceful, sparkling with the tea-colored water of the Pine Barrens.

“They’re talking about going in there and whacking this forest,” he said. “This is not about building a Wawa. This is about building a city within a city.” Blake was the most outspoken Wawa critic I’d come across. But later, prior to a hearing on the “Wawa tract,” he admitted he kind of likes its stores.

Think of the birders who set out at 6 a.m., he said. Without Wawa, “Where would they get their coffee?” Then he added, without a trace of sarcasm: “Thank God for Wawa.”

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  • Zip

    Check your AP Stylebook, please. It’s “Canada” goose, not “Canadian” goose.

  • Katie

    The proposed Conshohocken Super Wawa that was stopped by a “hurtful Stop Wawa campaign on Facebook”, has not been stopped. Despite the 300 residents shouting at a Borough meeting, “we don’t want it, we don’t need it”(http://tinyurl.com/3gwa62g), the developers push full speed ahead.

    Behind the scenes they are making sure the deal quietly moves forward. Morethanthecurve.com has reported a rumored organized effort funded by developers and lawyers to “put in place developer friendly municipal governments and solicitors (borough/township lawyers) across Montco” (http://tinyurl.com/3sjtck6).

    Residents see a critical change to the fiber of Conshohocken if this is developed. This Wal-Mart like megastore will endanger the delis, gas stations, retail and convenience stores, throughout Conshohocken. This would be the third Wawa in the immediate area and will lead to at least ½ a dozen local gas stations almost immediately closing. Sites that cannot quickly be redeveloped because of the underground storage tanks and environmental issues they pose. Making matters worse, this Super Wawa will have diesel fuel, bringing delivery trucks 24/7 through the residential community.

    Residents along Fayette Street vehemently oppose it, for traffic reasons, children safety and the future of their neighborhood. Concerns that fall by the wayside of Wawa attorneys/developers. facebook.com/stopwawa.

  • Fred

    While Wawa is certainly the pride of the Philadelphia area, it should be noted that in the late 1980′s, an internal scandal at Wawa resulted in the hiring of a New York-area purchaser who broke contracts with all Philadelphia vendors and signed on with primarily New York companies. It was not the fault of the family in charge of Wawa, but it was an embarrassing part of the history. I represent a family that lost 80 percent of our business because of that incident, so I am slightly bitter but I think it still is worth mentioning.

  • Amber

    I’m orginally from western PA and a veteran Sheetz customer. When I relocated to the Bucks County area three years ago, I couldn’t understand why there weren’t any Sheetz around, All Wawas. I mostly stick to 7-11 for coffee, and wawa for gas. Nothing Wawa makes compares to a Sheetz MTO!

  • Joe

    I think its funny when you hear about these communities opposing wawa’s being put in their towns. It’s funny because when it does finally get pushed through the approval process and the wawa opens for business, all of those masses who had previously opposed the store are suddenly frequent shoppers. If you don’t like wawa then dont shop there and go ahead and pay 20 more cents a gallon on gas at the dot shop station across the street where the indian guy is talking on his cell phone the whole time and couldnt give 2 shits about you.

  • Concerned

    I wonder what percentage of the resistance to the Wawa in Conshochocken is by business owners on Fayette, specifically gas station owners. I have no pity for the prospects of an oligarchy that charges 10-20 cents more per gallon on average than every surrounding community. Stop gouging the customers, and we won’t demand alternatives.