By Tamas Mondovics
Hundreds of guests, company executives and state officials gathered earlier this month to celebrate the grand opening of Wawa’s 100th Florida store in Brandon.
The festive event, joined by Florida State Senator, Tom Lee, State Representative, Ross Spano and Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, marked a major milestone in the company’s long history and Florida development.
“We are opening our 100th store in just four years in Florida and are thrilled to be able to celebrate this incredible milestone in Brandon as we continue to grow our brand across the Sunshine State,” said Wawa’s President and CEO, Chris Gheysens. “We are honored to have become a part of so many wonderful communities, serve so many tremendous customers and work with so many dedicated associates.”
The new store, located at 1728 W. Brandon Blvd. in Brandon, opened significantly ahead of its initial timeline projection. Served by general manager, Jeffrey Burnett, its nearly 40 associates in full and part-time positions, are eligible for competitive salaries and health benefits, as well as Wawa’s employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
The ceremony included a donation of $100,000 to Feeding America, from The Wawa Foundation, demonstrating Wawa’s community involvement and hunger-fighting initiatives throughout Florida.
The donation is promised to be distributed to representatives from Second Harvest Orlando, Feeding Tampa Bay, Fort Myers Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Treasure Coast Food Bank.
Prior to the store officially opening its doors, Wawa associates from all across the Tampa region came together to build 1,000 hoagies for local food banks. Adding to the traditionally energetic ceremony, there were hoagie building lessons and cheers led by Wawa’s mascot Wally Goose.
Representatives from the Central Florida USO a nonprofit organization that offers many free programs and services to support U.S. troop, took part in performing the National Anthem. Wawa Director of Operations Dave Prevost hosted a Wawa Florida “Smilestone” Parade, which was recognized by Commissioner White, who in representing the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners proclaimed November 4, 2016, as Wawa Smilestone Parade Day.
Wawa Chairman of the Board Dick Wood, drew attention to the company’s success thanks to its six core values.
The festivities also included the charitable Hoagies for Heroes hoagie-building competition, waged between Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and the Hillsborough County Sheriff Office. Each team had three minutes to build as many hoagies as they could in the traditional Wawa way.
The trophy was reclaimed by the five-member Sheriff’s Office team.
Both teams then received $1,000 from Wawa to support the charities of their choice.
The celebration also included free coffee at all Wawa Florida stores, all day. Moving forward, Wawa representatives now look to future expansion throughout the Sunshine State, predicting the opening of 500 stores within the next 10 years.
“We can’t wait to see what the next few hundred stores bring as we continue to fulfill customers’ lives every day across the state of Florida,” Gheysens said.
A chain of more than 730 Wawa convenience retail stores are located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida, offering a large fresh food service selection including Wawa brands such as built-to-order hoagies, freshly-brewed coffee, hot breakfast sandwiches, built-to-order specialty beverages, and an assortment of soups, sides and snacks. For more information about Wawa please visit www.wawa.com.