In Tennessee, They’re Going Cray-Cray for Wawa — We Understand in Kentucky
If you've seen the stories about Wawa in Tennessee and how its residents are super-excited about it, well, you shouldn't be terribly surprised--especially if you're from Kentucky.
WAITING FOR WAWA
First, if you've never HEARD of Wawa, like me, you'll probably be surprised to learn it's been around for nearly 50 years, beginning with the first store in Pennsylvania in 1964. By 1986, the chain had opened its 300th(!) store in New Jersey. And I guess since I have only been to Pennsylvania four times in my lifetime--and I've only ever been through New Jersey once--that's why the name is unfamiliar to me.
THE HISTORY OF WAWA
The timeline on the Wawa website is a fascinating look at its evolution and will open your eyes to how prolific it actually is. And now, it's branching away from the east coast and preparing to open in Tennessee, specifically Nashville.
But the ribbon-cutting isn't imminent. Right now, the target is 2025, so there's plenty of time for the excitement to reach a fever pitch if that hasn't ALREADY happened. It seems Wawa really generates a frenzy.
The Tennessean tells us that folks have gotten MARRIED at Wawa stores. There are tattoos. There's even been a song written about Wawa COFFEE.
But that shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone who knows anything about Wawa; this Tampa Bay Wawa barista serenades customers as she prepares:
THE WAWA EXCITEMENT IS COMPARABLE TO THE BUC-EE'S EXCITEMENT
If this all sounds a bit extreme, it really shouldn't to anyone reading this who lives in Kentucky. When it was announced that the Commonwealth was getting a BUC-EE'S, the excitement was at a similar level. And the grand opening of the Richmond location bore that out.
I've tried searching for why stores like Wawa and Buc-ee's generate so much excitement. Some friends of a friend are planning a trip from Evansville to visit the Richmond Buc-ee's. That's a haul for a convenience store.
WHY BIG CONVENIENCE STORES ARE SO POPULAR
But I'm gathering that merely calling it a "convenience store" undersells its appeal. I can tell you that when I'm traveling and I see a Love's, I will usually pull over. It's a massive roadside chain and is stocked with everything you think you might need on the road, and then some. Here's a theory about why roadside gas stations are becoming the equivalents of supermarkets.
Wawa and Buc-ee's do seem to kick it up a notch or two with the kinds of inventory you DON'T usually see in stores of this kind. Maybe that's it.
But the psychological appeal of these kinds of stores is apparent and makes for a good argument to expand them to as many locations as possible.
Wawa's arrival in Nashville in three years will be the first time the popular chain will be located in a state that's not considered a mid-Atlantic state or one that doesn't border an ocean. And Buc-ee's began its life in Texas and is now in Kentucky.
I wonder how many other chains of this type are out there waiting to blow our minds with whatever it is that causes people to make pilgrimages.