Just in time for the 150th anniversay, there's a new battle for Gettysburg....and the stomachs and minds of the rest of the heart of Pennsylvania. Except this fight -- pitting neighbor against neighbor, even cousin against cousin -- doesn't come in shades of blue and grey. No, the new war for Pennsylvania pits a proverbial giant goose against the mark of Zorro (and home of the "Nachoz").
Oh, it's on...and it's going national, baby! We're talking about Philly's very own Wawa against those upstarts from Pennsyltucky, Sheetz:
Convenience stores are supposed to be interchangeable, selling low-priced gas and self-serve coffee based on the proposition that when you need a pit stop, you turn in to the first you see, right there.
But in Pennsylvania, two convenience chains stir tribal loyalties, a commitment as deep as bonds with the Philadelphia Phillies or Pittsburgh Pirates. The second also has a name that strafes outsiders' ears: Wawa. State lore has it that it is the honk of the goose on its logo.
"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, west of Philadelphia. It was not far from the town of Wawa, which is Mile Zero in the chain's history and the real source of its name.
Ms. Fischer eventually changed her mind. "I'm here at least 10 times a week," she said. "At least." She cradled a 24-ounce vat of coffee at 4 in the afternoon. "I can't stay away."
This story hit this morning in the New York Times, and all day my Twitter feed has been going nuts (especially since I have a high number of Philadelphians in there, proud self-proclaimed members of what they're calling #TeamWawa ). Honestly, I don't recall this much trash talking when the Steelers and Eagles played each other -- but that's how seriously we take our processed meats.
I thought the Times article well captured the essence of Wawa -- clean, airy and thus maybe a tad more Main Line (or at least Blue Bell, anyway) than South Philly in its middle-brow pretensions, versus the cluttered hillbilly chic of Sheetz (which sells "Shmuffinz"...need I say more?). Of course, I still walk around with hillbilly blood, so I'm sympathetic to those taken in by Sheetz' shtick (when my son insisted on stopping there during a college-hunting trip last summer, we ate at an outside table...you might want to jump on that, Wawa.) But at the end of the day, Wawa is home.
And there's no place like home.