Amy Lombard’s photo-story and essay on Wawa, a chain of convenience stores on America’s east coast, came about when nostalgia kicked in once she had moved to Wawa-less New York. It wasn’t long before she was wishing that “Wawa sold candles that captured its abrasive scent”, and wondering what they had done to brainwash her so effectively – how they had crated a culture that kept her up at night. Having grown up round the corner from its headquarters, the phenomenon of Wawa is close to her heart: “Everything about it oozes home for me – the setting, my regular sandwich and just the general ambience is comforting. It’s a community hub, even visiting it now I can’t seem to escape the people I grew up with.”
“Unfortunately a lot of editors didn’t feel the same way, no one could grasp the importance of a seemingly glorified 7/11. To a certain extent I get it, but they clearly weren’t from Wawa territory” she says. Then Mashable picked it up, and once Wawa was on board Amy hit the ground running: “This was not a project that could be finished in a day. I spent a lot of time trying to really understand the company culture, it’s history, and the relationship they have with their customers. I attended store openings, visited multiple locations, toured their headquarters, visited their milk factory and test kitchens as they debuted new products. I had my ‘a-ha!’ moment when a customer told me he had written a song about Wawa. When I asked him why he said: ‘I come here every day, even if I don’t need anything. I come in because I miss the feeling. The Wawa people all know you, they say hello, know you by name, it’s almost like a family.’ It was a moment of clarity, when the story all started to make sense.”
Her photographs capture the energy of the store, the faces, mascots and sandwiches that make it what it is. And the strange atmosphere of devotion and adoration, mirroring that of a place of worship or celebrity fan club.
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