People have been advising others to chew their food well for a long, long time. Time
Wawa, the convenience-store chain known for its funny name, flying goose logo, "shorti" hoagies and the more than 125 million cups of Java it sells each year, has a long history.
In April 1964 the company opened its first retail store, launching a business empire that now extends into several states.
While the location of the first store was Folsom, Pa., the origins of Wawa, dating back more than two centuries, can be found right here in Cumberland County.
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For it was in Greenwich in 1799 that Richard D. Wood, who might well be called the patriarch of the firm now known as Wawa Inc., was born.
Later settling in Philadelphia, Wood also maintained a home in Millville where he was said to be active in nearly every enterprise that contributed to the city's early growth.
Wood brought the railroad to town and helped found the Millville National Bank and the city's first gas company. He constructed the dam on Sharp Street, creating Union Lake.
A large landholder, Wood also sold a sizeable tract to Charles K. Landis on which Landis founded Vineland.
One of Wood's major enterprises was Millville Manufacturing Co., the textile mill complex along Columbia Avenue which he started in the mid-1800s after buying an iron foundry here from his half-brother, David.
Remaining in family control for a century, it would become one of Millville's largest industries. As such, the Wood family built a neighborhood settlement in the surrounding Third Ward to house employees.
But during the mid-1900s, with the textile business faltering, the family sold the mills and focused its attention on a dairy business they had launched in Wawa, Pa. in 1902.
The Woods, who originally offered home-delivery service, opened the first Wawa retail store in 1964. Four years later, the first Wawa market in our area began operations on Vineland's Chestnut Avenue, near Delsea Drive, in May 1968.
It was followed that October by locations on Main Road in Vineland and Sharp Street in Millville.
At the time, Wawa was open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, closing only on Christmas. Today, most locations operate 24 hours a day.
It wasn't until 1974 that the company, chartered in 1865 as Millville Manufacturing Co., officially changed its name to Wawa Inc.
The firm, which today is continuing to expand with more stores and super stores popping up, generates nearly $3 billion in sales annually.
Still a major real estate holder here, Wawa opened up the area east of Millville's Union Lake to residential development in the 1960s.
In 2000, South Jersey Healthcare purchased from Wawa for $2.54 million the land on which the Regional Medical Center in Vineland now sits.