MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Think of it as a little piece of Philadelphia that is popping up in Miami-Dade.

Wawa started up north and has been in the sunshine state for close to seven years now, with 3 stores opening in the county this week.

You may or may not know what it is but one thing is for sure, you can’t miss it.

“Definitely a lot of wide-eyed people as they are walking in the door. The response has been great,” said Tim Varacchi who manages the store opening on Coral Way.

He had been busy all morning helping those who were new to the store find what they were looking for while welcoming those who are relieved they no longer have to drive to Broward for the Wawa experience.

Jenna Olson loves the food and has been going to Wawa all her life.

“The first time I went to one was up north so when I heard they were coming to South Florida I was like that’s epic,” she said.

Olson remembers about the moment she realized one was opening here.

Tomas Brieto was curious about what he would find inside the store and loved it from the first second.

“It’s my first time here and it looks awesome,” he said. “Very convenient and well located. I love the gas prices.”

And that location is something that Chris Gheysens, Wawa’s President and CEO looks for when opening up new stores.

The three in Miami-Dade will be visible along busy intersections and is employing close to one hundred fifty people from the neighborhoods surrounding the stores.

“Being a neighbor is important to us,” said Gheysens. “We talk about our business being friends and neighbors serving friends and neighbors.”

That feeling of being in the community was evident at the Kendall store opening as they recognized local charities and awarded grants while inside new employees were hard at work preparing food as ordered, assisting customers, and even served up empanadas and cafecitos.

“We recognize that Wawa is not authentically Cuban and that’s not what we are trying to do,” said Gheysens with a laugh, when asked about the menu items. “We are just trying to fit in.”

Fitting in and offering a great experience for both new and existing customers is what Wawa hopes to do.

That’s what brought in Rebekh Ferrer who has been to a Wawa in Orlando and wanted to share the experience with her mom.

“She’s never been here so I’m just showing her the wonders of Wawa,” she said.

The three stores in Miami-Dade are located at 6971 SW 24th Street, 11990 SW 137th Avenue, and 11191 SW 184th Street.

The Kendall location will have gas for $1.99 a gallon all weekend.

Dave Warren

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