Two letters repeated in a particular order can elicit a profound emotional response, even tears, from anyone in South Jersey: Wawa. This convenience store is a way of life in the Mid-Atlantic.
I grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey, and that’s where Wawa slips neatly into my personal history. In a resort town brimming for 5 months of the year and deserted the rest, Wawa was a constant.
Wawa was originally conceived as an iron foundry in 1803. It was only after the company moved to Wawa, Pennsylvania in 1902 that they got into the dairy business.
Starting with a small dairy farm and processing plant, George Wood, the owner of Wawa, wanted to set his product apart from the competition.
At a time when pasteurization was not widely available, George requested that doctors certify his products and facilities sanitary to help ease the minds of people wary of tainted milk.
This "certification" helped Wawa to expand rapidly. The first Wawa Food Market opened in 1964 in Folsom, Pennsylvania. To this day, the quality of the products has been Wawa's greatest strength.
Wawa introduced hoagies in 1972. Starting as pre-made offerings, they quickly became a staple of any visit to Wawa. It wasn’t until 1984 that the made-to-order hoagie debuted.
Wawa sells over 80 million hoagies a year and they’ve got it down to a science. In 2002, Wawa was one of the first convenience stores to introduce touch-screen ordering at the deli-counter.
When winter rolled in, Wawa was one of the few businesses that stayed open. But nothing chased the cold away from a chilly walk with my friends like a Wawa coffee.
Straddling the line between cheap and delicious, Wawa still has a place in my heart. My personal antidote for slushy conditions is a 16-oz cup filled with half French vanilla latte and half hot chocolate.
Even though I haven’t lived in Ocean City for a while, every time I walk into a Wawa, I can easily access some convenient memories.