An Ode to Pennsylvania’s Superior Convenience Store Game

I was in Florida in January. One of my trip’s highlights was introducing my Massachusetts-based cousin Mary to the wonder that is the Wawa Buffalo Chicken hoagie. I take mine on whole-wheat bread. Typically six inches. No cheese. Just fried chicken tenders and Wawa’s neon orange sauce.

I miss Wawa. I miss that hoagie specifically, but I also miss their chocolate milk. I miss having good breakfast sandwiches at the ready near the cash register. I miss how you could actually eat healthy at Wawa, how they always have a PNC ATM, and the fact that their bathrooms are very clean. I miss being able to stop at a convenience store and order a cheap meal you don’t feel bad about eating. I miss Sheetz less than Wawa, but I still miss its convenience, cleanliness, and extensive menu. I miss Turkey Hill, primarily for their dairy products.

North Carolina’s convenience store game is bleak. I haven’t committed the names of any of the chains to memory because none of them stand out. They do have several things in common, though:

1) The only non-snack food available are pre-wrapped sandwiches of dubious origin or hot dogs that have been rotating under a heat lamp for god knows how long.

2) The bathrooms are typically the kind you need to get a key from the cashier to use. It’s an unwritten rule that any bathroom which requires key procurement shall have SVU-crime-scene vibes.

3) I’ve yet to see more than 3 kinds of Poptarts offered.

4) They all have boiled peanuts. I’ll keep talking about how I don’t get boiled peanuts.

I’d always known Pennsylvania spoiled me when it came to convenience stores, but I didn’t realize how much I depended on them till moving down here. And while I’ve always known PA is great at convenience stores, I didn’t realize it might be the king of convenience stores in the US. I’m not just blowing smoke up my home state’s ass either. In 2019 Food and Wine Magazine published a listicle ranking the best convenience stores in the country. Four Pennsylvania chains appear on the list, and three, Wawa, Sheetz, and Rutter’s, are in the top ten. Wawa is number two after some Texas outfit I’m sure just has a better PR firm (and for the record, I’d switch Turkey Hill’s and Rutter’s rankings).

My point? North Carolina, you need to step up your convenience store game. Or, as I’ve been so desperately imploring them via Instagram and Twitter, Wawa needs to break into the southern market.

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