Kim Ladig is as loyal as Wawa customers come:

The Garnet Valley resident visits her local Chadds Ford store two to three times a day.

"For coffee, a sandwich, gas, I'm really here all the time," Ladig said Friday, hands full of groceries, her two children at her side. "They've got it all."


This week, Wawa, one of the region's most revered convenience stores, could take the first step toward adding yet another item to the short-list for its dedicated, harried shoppers:


The Concord Township Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on an application to let the Wawa store on Naamans Creek Road begin selling six-packs, the company's first bid in 12 years to sell alcohol.

The decision would be limited to the Delaware County location; it also would require state approval.

Still, it has the potential to ripple far and wide: With scores, if not hundreds, of locations across the state, Wawa's entry into the beer market could be a game-changer for a chain already entrenched as a one-stop shopping destination at any hour, industry stakeholders say.

"Wawa has a following - they have people who go there religiously for almost everything," said Jay Wiederhold, president of the Pennsylvania Beer Alliance, a Harrisburg-based trade organization that represents wholesalers and supports the proposal. "It's all about consumer convenience for beer. An outlet like Wawa is what consumers look for now."

If approved, the Chadds Ford store would join nearly 250 supermarkets, convenience stores, and delis across the state that in recent years have been shaking up an industry long dominated by distributors.

Long barred from beer sales, supermarkets such as Acme, Wegmans, and Giant elbowed their way in over the last decade by adding restaurant facilities. Altoona-based Sheetz, one of Wawa's largest competitors, got its first liquor license that way in 2010.

Wawa would face the same criteria - having to create a separate space within its store, measuring at least 400 square feet, with a separate entrance and enough seating to accommodate 30 people, said Stacy Kriedeman, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Customers would be limited to two six-packs.

It's part of the state's continuing attempt to change what have been considered some of the most distinct - even archaic - alcohol laws in the United States. For decades, Pennsylvania beer-drinkers who wanted to bring brews home had to buy a case or keg from distributors, or no more than two six-packs from restaurants and taverns.

The competition from other outlets keeps rising. Already this year, 32 supermarkets, convenience stores, and delis have been granted licenses - a pace nearly double the number issued three years ago.

For customers such as Ladig, the shift away from a distributor-based model has been helpful.

Once obligated to buy an entire case, her husband, Pete, has welcomed the ability to buy six-packs of craft beer at Whole Foods in Glen Mills, she said. Buying at Wawa, she said, would be even more convenient.

The company has maintained that it is seeking approval only for the one location - but if things go well, "we may look to expand the offering depending on our experience," said Lori Bruce, a Wawa spokeswoman who otherwise declined to discuss its plans.

Wawa counts more than 600 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida. It sells beer only in its Florida and Virginia stores.

"This is really no surprise that they're getting into this," said Michael Schlagnhaufer, a lawyer at Flaherty & O'Hara, a liquor licensing law firm with a Philadelphia office. "Sheetz has been doing this for years, but there's no Sheetz around here. Everyone's been wondering: 'When is it going to happen?' "

Wawa sold beer in Pennsylvania before: In 1986, the company was licensed to sell beer at its Spruce Street store near the University of Pennsylvania campus. But its license renewal was denied in 2003 after the location was cited for sales to minors.

Concord's supervisors have not indicated how they will vote on the application, and many could not be reached for comment. In February, the board approved the transfer of a liquor license to Wegmans supermarket, scheduled to open there in the fall.

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of the Naamans Creek Road Wawa selling beer.

On Friday afternoon, as Wawa's parking lot teemed with customers, the lot of Brian Mutschler's Brewers Outlet a half-mile away had just a few cars.

Mutschler is worried. Distributors may have recently won the right to sell 12-packs, but he knows some consumers still like the low-commitment of a six-pack.

"Wawa has been there for decades and has done fine," Mutschler said. "Why now? Why all of a sudden do they need this to stay competitive?"

He is frustrated, he said, because under state law, distributors can operate only one site at a time. If sales drop, he can't rely on another location.

"We're not this big corporation, we don't operate all these other buildings," he said. "We're one mom-and-pop store. And the competition - not just from Wawa - from Whole Foods, Acme, it hurts."

Luckily for him, even some of Wawa's most loyal customers, such as Joe Dougherty, aren't likely to abandon their local distributors.

"Over there, I get way more value," said Dougherty, a Chadds Ford resident, pointing to Mutschler's store.

Besides, he said, "Wawa is a family place. Let's leave it that way."