“The Wawa Way” by Howard Stoeckel

This is the story behind MY Wawa in Galloway Township, NJ

I recently posted a link to a friend’s comments on “The Wawa Way”. (Read it if you never heard of Wawa.) The book was published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this chain of convenience stores.

I’m a Wawa regular (if not exactly an addict), and a few weeks ago my morning coffee was free, in celebration of said anniversary. And “The Wawa Way” (subtitled “How a Funny Name and 6 Core Values Revolutionized Convenience”) appeared beside the checkouts. I grabbed a copy for a birthday gift.

Moving through the line, I heard the young man working at the register try to convince a customer that the very Wawa in which we stood had been RIGHT HERE for 50 years! I got the giggles and walked out laughing. I know the real story.

I think the oldest Wawa in our area dates back to 1975. It’s a tiny store (no gas pumps, no bathrooms) in a town four miles down the road. Yes, it’s still there, unchanged, with just eight parking spots.

In 1980, I took a job with the county public health agency, supervising (among other things) food service sanitation. I shortly realized inspectors were snickering about certain facilities. One was a “health club” that seemed to operate on a “clothing optional” basis. The proprietor greeted inspectors without a stitch on. The club was called the “Avant Gard”. Their food service was impeccable. No food related hazard to public health was found on the premises.

One day a local resident got a surprise. A relative from a few states away called to taunt “You’ve got a sex club in your town!” Say what?? The relative sent a clipping advertising party space, fantasy rooms, adult fun, etc. Yes, it was the Avant Gard. We aren’t so far from Atlantic City (at that time the only legal gambling venue on the east coast) which may have generated the demand for these services. But they were carefully NOT advertised locally.

There followed a mighty tempest in our Township. How had this happened? Who issued a business permit? What defines a health club? The proprietor claimed that sex is healthy… Public debate accelerated, leading to the memorable statement by an elected official, “We don’t want kinky sex in Galloway Township!”

The Avant Gard couldn’t take the heat. The health/sex club closed, and the building became a corporate training location.

I moved to my present home in Galloway, near the intersection of Route 30 and Tilton Road, in 1993. Around that time, a small Wawa appeared there, across from the corporate training location. “It’s a sign!” we said. We were meant to move here, and enjoy Wawa coffee.

A few years passed and “our” Wawa outgrew its location. It moved, in a much expanded version, across the street to the former location of Galloway’s one and only sex club.

Does any other Wawa have such an interesting land use history? I doubt it!

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