NY Times Peels Back Curtain on Sheetz vs. Wawa Rivalry

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NY Times Peels Back Curtain on Sheetz vs. Wawa Rivalry


NEW YORK -- There are several debates Pennsylvania residents can have: Eagles vs. Steelers and Phillies vs. Pirates to name just two. But Sheetz vs. Wawa? It seems residents can be just as divided over their choice of convenience stores.

Both companies may have strange sounding names, but both bring out fierce loyalty from their customers, a recent report by The New York Times found.

"I would have to say I'm a Sheetz girl," said Jennifer Zack, 34, handing the cashier a loyalty card with her coffee order.

Then there is Jeff Marquette, 32, a cable installer stopping for a sandwich, who told the newspaper he goes out of his way to stop at Sheetz.

Moving east across the state, Wawa Inc. spurs the same loyalty.

"When I moved here 13 years ago, I didn't want to go based on the name alone," said Caiti Fischer, stopping at a Wawa in Glen Mills. However, she eventually changed her mind. "I'm here at least 10 times a week," she said. "At least."

As Don Longo, editor of Convenience Store News, explained to the newspaper, both c-store retailers are among a handful of regional chains in the country that he called "best in class." They operate convenience stores that update the old formula known as "coke and smokes" by offering self-serve soda fountains and cappuccino bars, friendly service and, especially, fresh sandwiches ordered on a touch screen.

Pennsylvania convenience stores even made headlines during the 2012 presidential race when Republican candidate Mitt Romney marveled over the touch-screen ordering technology at Wawa during a campaign stop.

According to The New York Times, Sheetz was apparently first with the touch-screen development . A store manager in the 1980s was trying to move deli meats and let customers write orders on a slip of paper to deposit in a basket. Marketing and technology took it from there.

"I have to brag and say we beat Wawa," said a Sheetz spokeswoman, Monica Jones. "This is undisputed."

In addition, Sheetz -- based in Altoona, Pa. -- is known for its neon colors, loud country music and the alliterative use of its name in products. It sells Sheetz Shweetz, a CinnaShmonster and Shmuffins. Near its corporate headquarters in Altoona, it offers employees a Shwellness Center.

Wawa -- based in Wawa, Pa. -- is what some may consider city to Sheetz' country. Its stores feature a color palette of muted browns and blonds, and a central island of healthy food includes diced mangoes and apple slices.

Sheetz counts 226 stores in Pennsylvania and a total of 435 in the region. Wawa has 216 in-state stores and 607 overall, making its biggest move outside the Mid-Atlantic region with several 2012 store openings in Florida. The company is also moving slightly north with store openings in northern New Jersey.