Philadelphia sandwich culture is slowly taking over the nation. Making good on massive expansion plans promised last spring, Wawa announced it’s targeting locations in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.
That makes six new states on the list for the Delco-headquartered convenience chain.
Currently the 29th largest privately owned company in the U.S. — and the largest in Pa., with one of the nation’s biggest employee stock option programs — Wawa is hoping to double its store count by the end of the decade, CEO Chris Ghysens told the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Since opening its first store in 1964, it’s grown to nearly 1,000 locations across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington DC. Other planned markets, announced this summer and fall, include Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.
Wawa’s latest moves are making a splash in Indiana and Kentucky, with local media outlets trumpeting the news, and Midwesterners who’ve spent time in the Philly region touting the chain as “life-changing.”
What does the brand offer that’s so great? It’s fashionable for Philadelphians to bemoan the cult of Wawa these days, opining that the quality of offerings has gone down.
But consider this: would you rather have a Wawa hoagie, or no hoagie at all?
Sandwiches on long rolls of course exist in these states, but they’re not necessarily the real deal — and they’re usually called “subs,” per this map.
One restaurant in Indianapolis, called Hoagies & Hops, is entirely built around introducing Philly food to the Hoosier state.
Over the years, Wawa has also upped its coffee game, getting into specialty roasts. The biggest game-changer for the company was its move into gas stations, where it’s now poised to tap into the growing EV use by adding charging to its fuel offerings.
In the biggest city in its home market, however, the company has lately been closing stores. CEO Ghysens has promised the brand isn’t abandoning Philadelphia, but Center City will soon have five prominent retail locations that used to be Wawas.
The first outposts in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio aren’t expected to happen till 2025, but the brand is asking residents of those states to submit suggested locations here.