PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Chris Stigall spoke with Christopher Gheysens, the CEO of Wawa, as the company prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary on Monday morning on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT.
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Gheysens said that in a very competitive market, Wawa’s employees are what engender such a fierce loyalty to the store from residents of the Delaware Valley.
“Our people, our associates, they really are the magic, the secret sauce to making Wawa different, better and special…That’s how we’ve been able to really connect differently with people, through our associates,” he explained.
He believes Wawa associates are able to provide multiple services, and that gives them an advantage over the competition in the region.
“Frequency is our business model. You have all of those businesses on one site. You have fuel. You have convenience. You have food and beverage. We’re there to simplify our customers’ daily lives and provide a bunch of services,” Gheysens said.
Gheysens also said that Wawa’s management decided to open the first convenience store 50 years ago as a result of changing consumer habits and in order to continue to sell beverages.
“We were in the dairy business and still are. As the business climate changed, as consumer trends changed, the home delivery of milk business changed — the outlet that we really wanted to put our milk to and offer a new product assortment was convenience stores,” he said.
Gheysens added that while Wawa has recently expanded to Florida, there are currently no plans to expand all over the country.
“We’re a customer operations-focused company. It’s never been about going national. We’re conservative by nature…Moving from a regional to a multi-regional company, now down in Florida, that was a huge leap for us, and still is, in terms of the culture and how we operate…That’s a big enough challenge now. We’re focused on Florida and focused on this market, and continuing to build it out, but no plans to fill in,” Gheysens stated.
He also explained that the name “Wawa” comes from a small town in Delaware County where Wawa’s founders owned a summer home.