Wawa D.C. Expansion: Could It Happen?

WASHINGTON -- Could Wawa, the beloved Pennsylvania-based gas station and convenience store chain known for its touchscreen-menu sandwich ordering system, be moving into the nation's capital?

According to the Washington Business Journal, that's a distinct possibility.

The chain with the funny name is "looking to fill out the D.C. and Baltimore corridor, both in Northern Virginia and Maryland," according to Peter Gilligan, a Wawa vice president and chief real estate officer.

Crossing the District of Columbia line could be in the cards, too, WBJ notes. But Wawa stores typically need 5,000 square-feet, which limits possible site selections in urbanized D.C.

The Wawa stirrings, naturally, have energized local fans, especially those who hail from southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, where the chain rules supreme.

It also might raise the stakes in the ongoing Wawa vs. Sheetz debate.

As The Washington Post detailed in a lengthy feature in 2009, fans of Wawa and Sheetz have a type of devotion that rises above the normal threshold for customer loyalty:

In some towns, the farther out you get, it feels like the Sheetz is the only thing left. Both chains see the same people every day. Wawa customers and Sheetz customers are known to make three, four, even, legendarily, 12 visits a day. Living in a limitless Wawa-or-Sheetz world is a miraculous thing. It might even be too much convenience. (Too much convenience?)

What would happen if Wawa teamed up with Fast Gourmet, the beloved D.C. gas station sandwich operation that has won over plenty of fans with its Uruguayan-style chivito?

Such an alliance would easily catapult Wawa over Sheetz, right?

Photo by Flickr user taberandrew