The battle lines in Pennsylvania

Posted: April 11, 2023 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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Amanda Oakley never thought she’d find the love of her life at her local Wawa. Still, there she was three years after meeting Bobby on a late-night hoagie run in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, after slipping away from her wedding reception.

As he planted a kiss, the wedding photographer captured the moment in the fluorescent glow of the couple’s favorite convenience store: Wawa.

The Oakleys are among those who favor Wawa over Sheetz, which has as many devoted fans.

Simply put, the debate over Wawa vs. Sheetz is one of the most heated among Pennsylvania fans and detractors—a debate that has just gotten fiercer since Wawa plans to take on Sheetz head-to-head here in central Pennsylvania.  

Both Wawa and Sheetz have roots as dairy farms dating back to the late 19th century. Wawa started as a small dairy-processing operation (in Wawa, Pennsylvania, outside of Philly), and the first Sheetz sprung from a family-owned dairy store in Altoona, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles away northeast of Johnstown and three and a half hours from Philadelphia.

Wawa operates over 950 convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, and Washington, D.C.

Sheetz has dominated most Wawa-free areas of Pennsylvania over the past few decades. According to its website, the chain operates approximately 650 locations across the Keystone State, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland.

Wawa brought in approximately $14.9 billion in 2022; Sheetz followed with $11.7 billion.

Sheetz and Wawa share many similarities. While Wawa places a focus on coffee and hoagies to pair with a more limited menu, both establishments offer made-to-order sandwiches on top of other convenience store goods, like snack foods and fountain drinks. Sheetz once stood out for its more traditional fried foods, but Wawa has recently introduced chicken sandwiches, quesadillas, and burgers. Many of the outlets offer gasoline and propane tanks.

“Wawa and Sheetz represent the best of the best in the convenience store world, and they’re a notch above the rest of the pack. Several notches, really,”  Donald Longo, editorial director of Convenience Store News told director “Everyone else is playing catch-up.”

Wawa recently said it plans to build more than a dozen locations on Sheetz’s turf in central Pennsylvania.

Supporters on both sides are lining up.

“Sheetz is really just disgusting food, and it’s like fried garbage. You know Wawa has some good, fresh hoagies and genuinely good food,” said Aaron Out, a Philadelphia-based rapper who recently found local fame with his hazy ode to Wawa and its hoagies.

Rozwell Kid, a band from West Virginia where “the hills are peppered with Sheetz locations,” according to frontman Jordan Hudkins, wrote their own jingle for Sheetz, “I Pledge Allegiance to Sheetz.” A cheery, cheeky single, many adopted it as a battle cry for late-night Sheetz runs and served as a remembrance of the band’s own late-night stops.

Although I spent more than a decade in Philadelphia’s Wawaland, I admit that Sheetz serves up some tantalizing treats here in Muncy. Whatever the case, direct competition should also be good for operations and their customers.

  1. Tony Hooker says:

    I prefer QT over Sheetz or Wawa – But Buc-ee’s is above them all.