Wawa has a reputation for whipping crowds into a frenzy when the chain opens its first location in an area. Company and store managers did not disappoint scores of residents and city officials who turned out Wednesday for the debut of the first Wawa in West Pasco.
The opening of the Port Richey convenience store and gas station at the southwest corner of U.S. 19 and Ridge Road had a pep rally atmosphere.
The store is the first of three locations in the Pasco-Hillsborough area that the Pennsylvania-based chain will operate.
City firefighters and police officers squared off in the Hoagies for Heroes sandwich-building contest. Fire Chief Tim Fussell and his team prevailed 32-25 over Police Chief Dave Brown and his troops. Wawa also donated $1,000 apiece to two charities selected by the city departments.
Port Richey City Manager Tom O'Neill and City Council members thanked the company for its investment in the community. Wawa has spent about $900,000 to build the store, O'Neill wrote in a recent email to council members and city officials.
Sheriff Chris Nocco said he is pleased with the cooperation from company officials toward law enforcement programs.
Chris Gheysens, Wawa president and CEO, explained the origins of the company, with roots dating to the early 1800s. Wally Goose, the 6-foot-tall Canadian goose mascot, symbolizes the origin of the name of the firm.
Store manager Kate Smith said the Port Richey store will employ 40 associates.
Wawa owns and operates all of its 570 locations. The firm plans to open about 100 Florida locations within the next five years.
A New Port Richey-area Wawa will open Wednesday at the intersection of Little and Ridge roads. A Holiday-area store, at U.S. 19 and State Road 54, will open its doors March 6.