If you travel down to South Florida over the next couple of years, you may notice a familiar sight: intersections littered with Wawa stores.
Wawa plans to grow its burgeoning Florida empire by opening 50 news stores over the next five years, according to a report by the Miami Herald.
“We are thrilled to officially break ground on our first South Florida store and look forward to growing and bringing the Wawa experience to this market,” Wawa President and CEO Chris Gheysens said in a release.
Wawa opened its first Florida Wawa in 2012 in Orlando. Since then, the company has opened 90 locations in Central Florida and near Tampa, and is set to to open its 100th store in November. By 2022, Wawa is expected to have 120 stories throughout Flordia.
All told, Wawa employs over 3,500 workers in the Sunshine State, where the popular chain appeals to the state’s dense population and Philly-area transplants.
“We had people who didn’t know what a Wawa was and now they’re running some of our best stores in Florida,” Gheysens told the South Florida Business Journal.
The chain with 725 stores and $9 billion in sales last year is also undergoing a major facelift. According to the Inquirer’s Suzette Parmley, more than 200 legacy stores are being remodeled at $1 million to $1.5 million a store. And the newer stores, which have fuel pumps, also will get a new look.
Wawa opened its first store in 1964, and sells over 200 million cups of coffee a year, 6th most in the country. It also sells over 80 million hoagies a year, topping the Philly market, while Wawa breakfast sandwiches fluctuate between No. 1 and No. 2.
Wawa’s Florida stores have a couple of local touches that customers won’t find in Philadelphia, such as Cuban hoagies (with pickles and mustard), burritos and Cuban coffee. You can even buy a beer at a Wawa in Florida, but even down there, you’re not supposed to drink it at the store.
A Mashable story written and photographed by Philadelphia native Amy Lombard attempted to explain “The Cult of Wawa.” Even in Florida, where the stores have only been around a few years, there was nearly a revolt when the company decided to open its new stores in the South without the inclusion of Wawa Iced Tea:
Wawa attempted to translate the northeast's culture and loyal following seamlessly down south. They even nixed the idea of automatic doors (because it’s known that at Wawa everyone holds the door for you). Or so they thought.
On launch day they forgot one missing element: Wawa Iced Tea.
Not only was there a line out the door, but the company faced an absolute uproar: Wawa was launching in Florida without one of its most beloved products. Floridians knew exactly what they wanted.