Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Single Opening for Three Stores in One

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Single Opening for Three Stores in One

Article excerpt

The first time I walked into a Wawa was about a year ago.

At that time, the gas station and convenience store chain was a buzzword around the Tampa Bay area, thanks to a surge of openings throughout the region and Orlando.

So when one opened across the street from my parents' house, my mom and I were curious to see what all the fuss was about.

From the outside, Wawa looks like any other gas station. Sure, the prices are cheap. At the time, the Wawa in New Port Richey (where my parents live) was about 10 cents cheaper per gallon than the BP and 7-Eleven the next block over.

What we learned -- quickly -- was that Wawa is anything but your average gas station.

It's more like three separate businesses rolled into one: a market, a convenience store and a gas station.

Let's start with the food.

Once you walk inside, you're greeted by an open kitchen, complete with touch-screen ordering stations, where you can buy a made-to- order smoothie, espresso, milkshake or one of Wawa's famous hoagie sandwiches.

Walk a few more steps and you reach the coffee bar, where more than eight brew varieties await you.

Then there's the beer cooler, where customers can literally walk in and grab a cold six- or 12-pack right off the shelf. Craft beer lovers rejoice: The selection is great, and includes some local brands, like Tampa's Cigar City Brewing.

But Wawa is still a convenience store.

It's easy to buy anything in the store -- from a bottle of wine to motor oil, to snacks and cigarettes -- inside.

Outside, customers can eat their food at several patio tables.

Wawa offers three kinds of gas: regular blend for cars, diesel and ethanol fuel for boats.

And filling air at a Wawa is free -- be it car tires, bike tires or whatever else -- so no more digging for quarters in between your car seats.

Needless to say, I'm excited to see Southwest Florida's first Wawa finally in Bradenton today, probably as excited as I was for Trader Joe's in Sarasota.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. …

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