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Wawa Names First Nonfamily C.E.O.

WAWA, Pa. – Wawa, Inc., one of the nation's leading convenience store operators, has named Howard Stoeckel its first nonfamily c.e.o.

Stoeckel, who presently serves as Wawa's president and c.o.o., will take the helm of the 543-store chain on Jan. 1. He will replace chairman and c.e.o. Richard D. Wood Jr., who represents the fifth generation of Wood family members to lead the company. Wood joined Wawa in 1970 as general counsel and took the helm in 1981, replacing Grahame Wood, a second cousin who founded the chain in 1964 as the family's textile and dairy-farming businesses faded.

Wood, who will retire to Florida with his wife, Jean, and who calls his successor "a visionary," told the Philadelphia Inquirer the decision to select a nonfamily member as Wawa's new leader was the right thing to do. "You want the best person to run the business. This is not about family, but about thousands of stakeholders."

Under Wood's and Stoeckel's tutelage, Wawa has not only increased its market share, but also its store size, product lines, utilization of technology, and gasoline sales. Wawa stores reportedly average $280,000 per month in nongasoline sales, while average gasoline sales are in the neighborhood of 106,000 gallons per week.

Among Stoeckel's most impressive contributions during his tenure at Wawa has been developing the chain's signature branded products. "A brand is a promise," Stoeckel told the Inquirer, adding that Wawa steadfastly aims "to simplify customers' lives" with speed of service and one-stop-shopping opportunities, such as gas pumps.

Wawa has long been known for its dairy products and outstanding foodservice program, particularly its made-to-order hoagies, as well as salads, fresh-cut fruit, coffee, breakfast offerings, and bakery items. Wawa moved into the gasoline market in 1999, when the chain opened 38 gas locations; the company now boasts nearly 150 gas locations and has said it will not open a nongasoline store.

Most recently Wawa introduced its own branded bottled water and eventually aspires to have its name emblazoned on a variety of packaged snack foods, like nuts and yogurts, said Stoeckel.

In April the c-store chain, which now employs 13,000 associates in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the opening of its first store in Folsom, Pa.
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