Week of Wawa Exclusive: 8 Highlights From 'The Wawa Way'

Convenience retailer gives away the store in this inspirational success story

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

The Wawa Way book (CSP Daily News / Convenience Store Petroleum)

WAWA, Pa. -- The top-line takeaway from this celebratory book by former Wawa Inc. president and CEO Howard Stoeckel (with Bob Andelman) is that this company was bound to succeed. Fully titled "The Wawa Way: How a Funny Name & 6 Core Values Revolutionized the Convenience Business," the first-person book was published to coincide with the privately owned convenience store chain's 50th anniversary (today) in retail.

While its leaders made mistakes and the company experienced failures, it always learned from those missteps and moved forward, sometimes revisiting and turning them around years later.

There are many reasons to read this book, from the historical look at the c-store industry to the business leadership tips. A few highlights include (spoiler alert!):

1. Spanish segars. Although the company's origins as a foundry and its history as a dairy are fairly well known, the book offers glimpses into the founding Wood family's retail ventures in New Jersey and Pennsylvania going back hundreds of years. Early ventures included shipping cedar logs, Spanish segars (cigars)--Wawa's history as a tobacco retailer actually goes back to the early 1800s--watches and household china.

By the 1890s, the family settled in a red-roofed house in a Delaware County, Pa., community called Wawa. It established the dairy farm right after the turn of the century. As home delivery of milk declined, the family opened the first Wawa Food Market in 1964 as an outlet for the dairy products. That evolved into a chain of more than 635 convenience stores (more than 365 offering gasoline) in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. The stores offer a large fresh food and beverage selection, including Wawa brands such as built-to-order hoagies, coffee, hot breakfast sandwiches, built-to-order specialty beverages and more convenience fare.

2. The six core values. "Today, many retail businesses measure excellence by share of market: the percentage of total sales in a specific category that they control at any one time," Stoeckel writes. "Banks tend to measure success by share of wallet and public companies by their share price. At Wawa, our measure of success has always come from a more human place--one that values people, not simply profit. We strive for something we believe is more important and more enduring: share of heart. … When you share part of a customer's heart, the service relationship changes. Customers become friends--and in many cases more like family members."

Growing out of the principles of servant leadership and shared ownership, this philosophy is at the heart of what the company calls its "six core values": Value people, delight customers, embrace change, do things right, do the right thing and have a passion for winning.

Part of CSP's 2014 Convenience Top 101 retailers