It’s not a Buc-ee’s. Much smaller and without as many features.
It’s not a QT, known for its quick in and out, but close.
It’s not your typical convenience store that lacks personality and is not distinguishable from other convenience stores.
Wawa stores could be described as quick in-and-out food marts/gas stations with a personality. They have been popular and highly successful in the eastern United States and Florida. Now, they are invading Alabama.
The first Wawa in Alabama breaks ground November 2 at the intersection of Cottage Hill Road and Sollie Road in west Mobile. Another Alabama location opens in Fairhope in early 2024. Four other Baldwin County locations are in progress and will follow shortly.
While the famous and popular Buc-ee’s giant convenience stores serve primarily interstate highway traffic, Wawa is geared toward locals, often the going-to-work folks. You will not see them along interstates.
Buc-ee’s has been unusual and interesting enough to become a destination site. People who do not particularly need to buy anything will plan a trip to Buc-ee’s just to see it and its offerings. And more than once — return visitors.
A question you hear: “Have you been to see Buc ee’s?” Will that question be asked about the new-to-Alabama Wawa stores?
A third Alabama location will also be in Mobile at the intersection of Schillinger Road and Old Government Street Road in the highly-developed West Airport Road corridor.
Three more locations in the Wawa invasion of Alabama will added in Baldwin County with Wawa stores, making four Baldwin sites:
U.S. 98 and Baldwin 44 (Twin Beech Road) in Fairhope
Alabama 181 and Alabama 104 in Fairhope
U.S. 98 and Johnson Road in Daphne
Alabama 59 and Baldwin 48 in Robertsdale
The Alabama plan for Wawa is to open 40 stores in the new Alabama region, which includes the nearby Florida Panhandle.
In addition to being a curiosity and a new quick-stop option, Wawa is a major job creation engine with 35 workers for each store. Starting wages are $15 an hour.
Ten years ago, there was not a Wawa in Florida. Today, there are 250 stores with 10,000 employees.
There are 950 Wawa stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington, D.C. Adding the new Alabama region will put Wawa at just under 1,000 stores.
The name “Wawa” is intriguing. Folks’ first thought is that Wawa is the baby talk rendition of ‘water.’ That’s not it. The home of the Wawa chain and the very first store was in Wawa, Pennsylvania. Simple as that.
But how did the small township of Wawa, Pa. get the unusual name? After a Canadian goose. The unincorporated township was home to a local dairy, the base for the first Wawa store. The Wawa Canadian geese fly there.
As a result, Wawa stores developed their own costumed mascot, Wally Goose. If you see a human goose around Mobile and Baldwin County, that is Wally Goose of Wawa stores.
Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor.
You can reach him for comments at [email protected].