Monday, June 25, 2007


Wawa is the greatest convenience store in the World.

Their fountain soda selection is unparalleled, and they have a machine that will squirt vanilla or cherry flavouring right into your cup, should your pop need a bit more pop. They usually have at least ten kinds of coffee brewing, and a fabulous fake latte/mocha machine that dispenses fabulously fake foamy drinks--for the same price as the coffee, so you can mix and match if you want: a pour of Hazelnut coffee, a swirl of Mocha-milk, a dash of Amaretto half-and-half, with some whole milk to cut the sugar. They have half and half, skim, 2 percent AND whole milk, served out of cartons on ice, none of those stupid little moo-moo creamers that you invariably break a finger-nail opening. They have an ice coffee dispenser and the most fantastic do-it-yourself milkshake machine. Plus a huge array of bottled water, juice and soda-and not brand specific either (i.e. only Coke products or only Pepsi products.) Also fresh brewed non-sweetened ice tea.

Their food selection is fantastic. In addition to ready-made sandies, they also have a great deli counter with a tasty array of hot and cold sandies; pre-made salads; several kinds of fruit salad; cheese cups; deli salads; yogurt; and carrot cups. A fine mixture of the deliciously junky and--if you are trying to be good--the actually healthy. Turn-over is high and everything is always fresh. They also have hot pretzels, breakfast sandies, donuts, and, of course, the usual array of candy and snacks. And gas. And clean bathrooms.

Alas that Wawa exists only in PA, VA, MD, DE and NJ, and in the wider states clings to the Eastern seaboard. The chain was founded over a hundred years ago in PA as a dairy, and, I guess, like Culver's Butterburgers and In & Out Burgers, staying local has allowed them to keep control and maintain high standards.

But I don't understand why other convenience stores and stop and shops don't follow the Wawa model. I've never been in a Wawa when it wasn't busy, even in the middle of the night. It's the kind of place you want to stop in because you know that if you don't want crap you can actually get something healthy. I've driven literally thousands of miles back and forth this extremely large country, and let me tell you, nothing makes you feel more behemoth than sitting in a car all day long, eating crappy fast food. But when you are trying to make it from Phoenix to Washington City in two and a half days you don't have the time to seek out Whole Foods. You are thrilled to see a prepackaged salad that looks edible or a fresh fruit cup. You do not see these things very often--if at all.

I'm not the only one who loves Wawa. There are actually TWO myspace communities devoted to Wawa-Luve: I Love Wawa and Gotta Have Wawa. Back in '06, the New York Times did a piece on the Cult of Wawa. If you live in Wawa Territory and have never been, I urge you--next time you see the yellow and red Wawa duck, screech into the parking lot and take a gander--I promise you'll never look happily at a 711, White Hen, or Circle K again. You'll wonder why they can't all be like Wawa.

(Wawa's one flaw is that it doesn't have decent popcorn, a staple of most Wisconsin stop and go's, the best of which is probably PDQ--another local chain.)

(I've heard the Japanese convenience stores are fabulous too, but then everything in Japan seems to be more fabulous than anywhere else so I'm not terribly surprised.)

I miss Wawa!


Paul Witcover said...

Whenever I drive down the Delaware shore, I always stop, coming and going, at a particular Wawa for hot or iced coffee (depending on the season) and a nice hot sandwich. Some Wawas lack gas pumps, which is a drag, but when they've got pumps, they are truly oases of comfort and convenience!

Unknown said...

Last summer, I attended a camp at Haverford College in Haverford, PA, a town just outside of Philadelphia built around the college (just like its neighbor Bryn Mawr...). Right near the campus was a Wawa, and going there was a daily (sometimes more than once a day) ritual. I went there once early on and bought a bag of chips for my room, and I was tempted to buy a copy of the New York Times (I didn't). My only other contact with that Wawa, as far as I can remember, was a desperate late-night run to get a sandwich for the next day's excursion to NYC. There were a lot of us sandwich-seekers, and I think we all came away satisfied.

So yeah, Wawa is awesome.