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WAWA, Pa. -- Fifty years ago, Wawa Inc. opened its first convenience store. In honor of the retailer's golden anniversary, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will declare April 16 as "Wawa Day" in the City of Brotherly Love.
According to Wawa's history, on April 16, 1964, Grahame Wood opened the first Wawa Food Market in Folsom, Pa., to counteract changes in consumer trends that created a decline in dairy home delivery. That store, at 1212 MacDade Blvd., will be the site of an in-store celebration -- the first of two -- as the retailer marks this milestone next Wednesday. The second celebration will take place at the 17th and Arch Street Wawa store in Philadelphia.
As a highlight of each event, Wawa's former President and CEO and current Vice Chairman Howard Stoeckel will officially launch the sale of his book, "The Wawa Way: How a Funny Name and Six Core Values Revolutionized Convenience," which will go on sale to the public that day and be available in all Wawa convenience stores.
Wawa Chairman Richard D. Wood Jr. and Wawa President and CEO Chris Gheysens will also participate in the celebrations. Wawa Day will conclude with an evening ceremony for the company's associates, business partners and invited community members at the National Constitution Center.
In addition to these festivities, Wawa is marking 50 years of serving its communities with the launch of The Wawa Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to commit $50 million over the next five years to causes in support of "Health, Hunger and Everyday Heroes."
"I offer my sincere congratulations to Richard Wood, Chris Gheysens, Howard Stoeckel and everyone at Wawa Inc. on the occasion of the company's 50th anniversary and the launch of The Wawa Foundation," Mayor Nutter said. "Wawa is a fixture in the Philadelphia region and an extraordinary corporate citizen -- most notably lending its name and support to the City of Philadelphia's 'Wawa Welcome America Festival' during the 4th of July celebrations. I'm honored to celebrate Wawa's 50th anniversary in business, and I look forward to the continued success of our partnership and enjoying many more Wawa hoagies for years to come."
The April 16 in-store events will include a photo exhibit of hoagie history chronicling the development of Wawa's signature sandwich from its inception until now, as well as original ads and signage from 1964, an antique Wawa truck from 1918 (at Folsom only), and Wawa's mascot, Wally Goose.
"2014 is a milestone year for Wawa, in more ways than one. We're celebrating our 50th anniversary in retail and the release of a book written by our former President and CEO Howard Stoeckel; we're launching The Wawa Foundation; and we're celebrating the grand opening of 45 new stores," Gheysens said. "We're moving full-steam ahead and could not be more excited to celebrate the customers and associates who have made this success possible, and share our exciting plans to fulfill customers' lives in new and meaningful ways well into the future."
The Folsom store event will take place from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. As part of the festivities, Wood will reenact the first-ever store transaction and unveil a special plaque dedicated to Wawa's founder Grahame Wood. The Philadelphia store event will take place from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
Today, Wawa operates more than 635 convenience stores, with more than 365 offering gas, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.