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Wawa is to 7-Eleven what Costco is to Walmart: cleaner, kinder and more responsible.

In case you missed the avalanche of attention (including the exclusive video of Mayor Buddy Dyer building a hoagie on our Culture2Go blog), Florida finally got a Wawa last week. The store across from SeaWorld, Wawa's first outside the mid-Atlantic region, will be one of a half-dozen ringing Orlando, with 100 outlets expected to open between here and Tampa in the next five years.

If I were a local entrepreneur trying to open my own business, I might be justifiably miffed at the media and political support being showered on an outsider company. But Wawa's arrival isn't just the opening of another franchise, but legitimate long-term good news for our local economy. Thanks to an industry-leading employee stock purchase plan, which even part-timers are eligible for, nearly half the stock in the company is held by its workers, with most of the rest in the hands of a nonprofit family trust. Wawa is also known for its charitable contributions, and kicked off their local residency with $25,000 in donations to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Alas, all is not ideal; Wawa's legendary soft pretzels, ice cream and bottled tea didn't make the trip down I-95. At the media preview, I politely accosted avuncular CEO Howard Stoeckel over their absence, and he assured me they might appear once Wawa's local infrastructure expands. Until then, I'll have settle for an Italian shorti and a cup of joe … just as soon as the lines die down.

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