Wawa Toasts Customers on 50th Anniversary (Slideshow)

Free coffee all day caps celebration of half century in convenience retailing

Wawa 50th Anniversary (CSP Daily News / Convenience Store Petroleum)

Dick Wood (left), Howard Stoeckel, Chris Gheysens

WAWA, Pa. -- Wawa Inc. officially celebrated its 50th anniversary as a convenience store today with in-store events chain-wide, but especially at the first store, located in Folsom, Pa., and at the 17th and Arch store in Philadelphia, where Mayor Michael Nutter officially proclaimed April 16 as Wawa Day in the city.

"I offer my sincere congratulations to Richard Wood, Chris Gheysens, Howard Stoeckel and everyone at Wawa Inc. on the occasion of the company's 50th anniversary and the launch of The Wawa Foundation," said Nutter. "Wawa is a fixture in the Philadelphia region and an extraordinary corporate citizen--most notably lending its name and support to the City of Philadelphia's Wawa Welcome America Festival during the 4th of July celebrations. I'm honored to celebrate Wawa's 50th anniversary in business, and I look forward to the continued success of our partnership and enjoying many more Wawa hoagies for years to come."

Both store ceremonies featured a photo exhibit of Hoagie history, chronicling the development of Wawa's signature sandwich from its inception until today. The exhibits also included original ads and signage from 1964 and an antique Wawa truck from 1918 at Folsom.

The company's mascot, Wally Goose, was also on hand all day to help celebrate.

Wawa further celebrated by giving away free coffee of all sizes, all day at its more than 640 c-stores throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.

"On the occasion of our 50th, we wanted to raise our cups to our customers and say 'thanks a million,' by giving away more than a million cups of their everyday-starter," said Chris Gheysens, Wawa's president and CEO. "At Wawa our coffee is one of most beloved and popular products, and this giveaway is one small way we can recognize our customers for all they have done to help us reach this incredible milestone."

Leading up to the 50th anniversary, Wawa launched The Wawa Foundation to formalize and increase its support of charities and community programs and has released "The Wawa Way: How a Funny Name & 6 Core Values Revolutionized Convenience," authored by former Wawa president and CEO Howard Stoeckel.

See Related Content to view CSP Daily News' "Week of Wawa" coverage, including video and slideshows about the company's history. Click here to read the review of "The Wawa Way" by CSP's Greg Lindenberg.

Wawa, a privately held company, began in 1803 as an iron foundry in New Jersey. Toward the end of the nineteenth 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 huge success, and as home delivery of milk eventually declined in the early 1960s, Grahame Wood, George's grandson, opened the first Wawa Food Market in 1964 as an outlet for dairy products. Today, Wawa is a chain of more than 640 convenience retail stores (more than 365 offering gasoline). Along with a wide variety of c-store merchandise, Wawa stores offer a large fresh foodservice selection, including Wawa brands such as built-to-order hoagies, coffee, hot breakfast sandwiches, built-to-order specialty beverages and an assortment of soups, sides and snacks.

Part of CSP's 2014 Convenience Top 101 retailers