BALTIMORE—Wawa, the 850-plus convenience chain based in Wawa, Pennsylvania, announced expansion plans at a special groundbreaking ceremony for its newest store in Baltimore, reports Benzinga.com.
As the company approaches 2020 and its 50th anniversary of serving Maryland customers, it announced plans to open five new stores in Maryland in the coming year and another 10 to 13 outlets in Maryland in the next five years.
In addition, Wawa announced a new partnership with Maryland Special Olympics for 2020 as a presenting sponsor for the Summer Games. The Wawa Foundation will provide a grant to cover the registration fees of athletes from Maryland, who take part in the 2020 Summer Games.
"For many years, Wawa has partnered with the Maryland Special Olympics to highlight the wonderful athletes and honor the heroes who have and continue to change the game," said Adam Schall Sr., director of store operations, Wawa. "We are excited to continue providing support for this important organization and the role it plays in inspiring athletes and providing life-changing opportunities.
"We're thrilled to be gearing up for our 50th anniversary in the state of Maryland, and our Baltimore groundbreaking ceremony and Maryland Special Olympics partnership announcement showcases how much we value our half-century spent serving customers across Maryland," said Schall. "We look forward to opening a new store in Baltimore soon and can't wait to keep connecting with new and old friends who will soon become the foundations of our stores. And, we can't wait to open even more doors across the State of Maryland."
For many years, Wawa has partnered with the Maryland Special Olympics to highlight the athletes. Wawa also supports people with special needs by providing employment opportunities through the company’s Supported Employment Program, reports Inquirer.com.
John Mitchell, 33, a longtime Wawa employee with Asperger's syndrome, is known as the “sample king.” He gives out free samples of blender drinks and tends the store’s dozen coffee urns. While he receives a regular paycheck, “seeing the smiles of people I serve and having them say thank-you is payment enough for me,” he said.
Manager Ryan Schwarzman hired Mitchell during Wawa’s annual Hoagiefest campaign in 2012. “John is a wonderful, hardworking associate, and he brings so much fun to the job,” said Schwarzman. “There’s never a day when he’s in the building that I don’t have a smile on my face. Customers love him.”
Mitchell, one of hundreds of Wawa’s special needs employees, works two days a week staffing the coffee station, mixing specialty drinks and helping as needed. Employees’ responsibilities are as varied as their own skills. Some receive assistance from job coaches provided by employment agencies, such as Community Integrated Services (CIS), which worked with Wawa to place Mitchell in his job. Others master their duties via Wawa’s usual training processes.
“Our goal is to match our client’s talent with a business need; it has to make sense because this is competitive employment,” said Erin Phovilaychit, director of business development for CIS.
Schwarzman said that having Mitchell on staff telegraphs to the world “that people of all abilities are welcome here. I think that makes us a pretty special place.”