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    Wawa No Longer All in the Family

    Stoeckel, current president and COO, to take over as CEO Jan. 1.

    WAWA, Pa. -- Wawa Inc., the family-owned convenience-store chain established 40 years ago, is for the first time tapping a CEO who is not a member of the founding Wood family, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Howard Stoeckel, 59, currently Wawa's president and COO, is set to take over the top job Jan. 1. He will replace Richard D. Wood Jr., 66, whose ancestors include half brothers David Cooper Wood and Richard Davis Wood, who in the early 19th century launched prominent retail and manufacturing ventures in southern New Jersey.

    It was not a difficult decision to pick an outsider, said Wood. "You want the best person to run the business. This is not about family but about thousands of stakeholders," he added, calling his successor a visionary.

    The Wawa-based chain in April celebrated the 40th anniversary of the opening of its first store in Folsom, Pa. Now serving more than 300 million customers each year, the company has 13,000 employees and racked up $2.8 billion in sales in 2003. Today, the chain operates about 550 stores, and the Wood family still owns a large stake of the company.

    Wawa's claim to fame lies in its dedication to foodservice. Wawa moved into the gasoline market in 1999 when the chain opened 38 gas locations. After just five years, Wawa now boasts nearly 150 gas locations, Stoeckel said recently, "Today, we will not open a non-gasoline store."

    That corporate culture of accepting and expecting change in order to continue to succeed is the foundation of the Wawa way. "Change is a long-standing tradition at Wawa," Stoeckel said in a recent interview with Convenience Store News. "Change is part of our DNA, part of our culture, our fiber."

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