As we all know from the history books, the Wawa-Sheetz feud began when a member of the Sheetz family stole a pig from the Wawas. A Sheetz family member who testified at the hognapping trial was slain by the Wawa clan, and the battle between the two sides continues today.
Okay, maybe I don’t quite have my history right. Convenience store preference may not rise to the level of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, but Wawa vs. Sheetz does inspire quite a bit of territorial bickering. I think it stems from childhood. There aren’t too many places for teenagers to hang out: movies, malls, parents’ basements. And, yes, convenience stores, little huts full of junk food and cigarettes that beckon the weary with a fluorescent glow. Grab a half-gallon of iced tea and sit on the hood of your car, bullshitting with friends and flirting with girls and having the time if your life.
Your convenience store becomes yours, and you end up really believing that anyone who thinks Sheetz is better than Wawa is an uneducated lout who would be better off in prison. Your childhood convenience store preference is like your childhood destination down the shore: You may not be able to explain it properly, but you’ll defend it to the death.
On Sunday, The New York Times—which is definitely starting to catch on to this sort of thing—ran an article detailing the rivalry between Sheetz and Wawa in Pennsylvania. The article drops some knowledge about the chains (Sheetz had touchscreen-ordering kiosks first!) and drops the ball in other places (“State lore has it that [Wawa] is the honk of the goose on its logo,” the Times reports, when it’s a Native American language word for the Canada Goose from “The Song of Hiawatha”).
It’s all a little silly: Even the Times‘ own map of the stores’ locations shows very little overlap. As a suburban Philadelphia business, Wawa hugs the East Coast, while Altoona-based Sheetz has most of its stores in Pittsburgh and what is not-so-charmingly called Pennsyltucky. For Philadelphians, the convenience store chain choice isn’t Wawa or Sheetz, it’s Wawa or 7-Eleven (which is not even a close battle). The main area of competition between Sheetz and Wawa appears to be Richmond, Virginia. And what of Turkey Hill, the Kroger subsidiary with a heavy presence in Pennsylvania Dutch Country? Or do only family-owned chains count in this war?
My guess is Wawa would win a survey of Pennsylvanians for the same reason Democrats keep winning the White House in the state: Philadelphia and its suburbs would overwhelm the rest of the voting populace with its sheer size, keeping the state safely in the, um, red-and-yellow. (Wait, these are also the Sheetz colors!) Still, the debate rages on. Even Tyler Kepner, a New York Times baseball writer from Philadelphia, weighed in on his paper’s article: “There’s no rivalry. Wawa rules, end of story.”
Wawa and Sheetz each have inspired quite a bit of literature, or at least magazine and newspaper articles. The Washington Post‘s Hank Stuever wrote a more literary version of the Wawa vs. Sheetz debate for the paper in 2009. Don Steinberg wrote a fantastic, interesting piece on Wawa in the August 2011 Philly Mag. The Altoona Mirror‘s Walt Frank detailed the history of Sheetz on the chain’s 60th anniversary in November. And, finally, some shameless self-promotion: I ranked Wawa’s Center City locations when the new Wawa at 17th and Arch opened last year, and once wrote an obnoxious screed on people who incorrectly write it “WaWa.” Also be sure to visit the blog of five West Chester girls who went to every Wawa as of 2009.
Some of the best responses to the Times article on Twitter follow. Don’t worry, when searching for this I avoided printing any humorless fools who questioned why this oh-so-important story was in the Times.
— Britt Whitmire (@brittwhitmire) February 10, 2013
Drinking an enormous Wawa coffee specifically to stick it to any Sheetz people who might be reading this.
— Rob Wesley (@eastwes) February 10, 2013
@buzzsawpgh You can compare Sheetz to Wawa the same way you can compare the ’10 Pirates to the 08 Phillies
— Dan Gelston (@APgelston) February 10, 2013
1) Sheetz had computer ordering technology first, but Wawa does it better.2) Sheetz has nachos and Wawa does not.
— jeffrey ziga (@eversincedapper) February 10, 2013
let me be extremely clear when i say this, if you are a person who chooses sheetz over wawa death is too good for you nytimes.com/2013/02/10/us/…
— max read (@max_read) February 10, 2013
if you like Sheetz more than Wawa, I don’t trust you
— Johnelle Parlagreco (@Johnelle6o9) February 10, 2013
@briantimoney the only Sheetz I’ve been to smelled of armpits. Wawa is my choice.
— James Fee (@cageyjames) February 10, 2013
Wawa and Sheetz are both good for one thing, explosive diarrhea.
— Time’s Yours (@times_yours) February 10, 2013
the same people in my FB feed who were hating on the NFL last Sunday are proudly posting the NYT article on Sheetz/Wawa
— Andy Johnson(@ndyjohnson) February 10, 2013
Sheetz wins for hot foods & smutty magazines. Wawa gets cold sandwiches & coffee. Turkey Hill is for ice cream and frozen drinks.
— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) February 10, 2013
@dhm If we’re not careful, the “Sheetz/Wawa” debate could surpass “Five Guys/In-N-Out” on the insufferability index.
— Some Dude (@MrGreenGenius) February 10, 2013
I think both Sheetz and Wawa are good. *is engulfed by judgement and hate of a million Pennsylvanians*
— joe м (@dr_pizza_MD) February 10, 2013