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SLIDESHOW: Wawa Wows Sunshine State

Retailer's grand opening brings out local dignitaries, hoagie-hungry Floridians

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Wawa held the grand opening of its much-heralded first Florida convenience store, located at Central Florida Parkway and International Drive in Orange County, Fla., across from SeaWorld Orlando, yesterday, hosting a gaggle of dignitaries ranging from Governor Rick Scott to Wally the Goose. Hordes of hoagie-hungry Floridians, many transplants for Wawa's existing eastern markets, came out for the event--and the food.

The grand opening kicked off with Wawa associate Tamika Miller, a winner of a companywide "Wawa Idol" singing contest, performing the national anthem.

Wawa CEO Howard Stoeckel spoke of Wawa's culture and values, illustrated by the Wawa Through the Ages parade, which visually highlighted Wawa's milestones. It featured associates wearing oversized foam-board photos depicting iconic Wawa moments and milestones--from Wawa's milk man, to hoagies, to the evolution of coffee cups through the years.

The Wawa Values Parade the featured associates who were nominated by their peers for exemplifying one of each of the six core values to be a part of the festivities. These associates marched with signs of the value they represented.

Orange County, Fla., mayor Teresa Jacobs welcomed Wawa to its first home in Florida. "Wow. Wawa, I should probably say. I have never seen anything quite like this. As you can imagine, I get to a lot of grand openings, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see this many people, this enthused," she said.

Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer spoke about the significance of Wawa to the local region and its commitment to community initiatives.

Florida governor Rick Scott spoke about the significance of Wawa's expansion to the state in terms of economic development and job growth. "Florida is proud Wawa has chosen to expand their company here in our great state," he said. "Today's grand opening is evidence that more companies want to grow and expand here in Florida because of all we are doing to make our state the best place for business."

Most of the local dignitaries had first-hand or second-hand Wawa tales to tell, often passed on from Wawa fans in the family.

And Wawa president Chris Gheysens spoke about the expected local and community impact Wawa hopes to have throughout Central Florida.

The event included a Hoagies for Heroes hoagie building competition between the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the Orange County Fire and Rescue. The teams vied to see who could build the most hoagies in three minutes in the traditional Wawa way. The Sheriff's Department competed on behalf of the Orange County Police Athletic League, and the firefighters competed on behalf of the Orange County Benevolent Association. Wawa concluded the competition by presenting checks to the charities.

Wawa has committed to donating a portion of hoagie sales for its first five Florida stores (up to $5,000 per store) to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, with a goal to raise and donate $25,000 in five weeks time.

The first Wawa Florida store exemplifies the chain's newest prototype, making a huge foodservice statement right as the customer enters the store. Its 4,600 square feet of retail space features:

  • Expansive glass windows and new store graphics.
  • A kitchen area dedicated to baking fresh hoagie rolls daily.
  • A full-service specialty-beverage area where customers can order 20 handmade varieties of hot beverages, espresso, Chai tea and lattes, as well as more than 20 varieties of smoothies and frozen beverages via touchscreen.
  • Dedicated checkout lanes.

Watch the embedded Orlando Attractions magazine video featuring Wawa director of Florida store operations Todd Souders for more details.

Each of the new Florida stores will employ approximately 35 associates. Four additional Florida sites are scheduled to open within the next month. Wawa plans to open 20 stores in the state in 2013, 25 stores in 2014 and 25 stores in 2015, with the goal of opening 100 stores in the Orlando market in the next five years.

The next four stores are scheduled to open in Orlando (July 25 and August 15) and Kissimmee (August 1 and August 8).

Wawa is chain of about 600 c-stores (300 offering gasoline), located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and now Florida. The Wawa, Pa.-based company's stores offer a large fresh foodservice selection, including Wawa brands such as built-to-order hoagies, freshly brewed coffee, hot breakfast sandwiches, built-to-order specialty beverages and an assortment of soups, sides and snacks.

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