(Photo by Matt McClain for The Washington Post)

Today, we celebrate Wawa. That glorious oasis of hot coffee and unlimited possibilities turns 50 today.

Those lucky enough to live near a Wawa in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia or Florida know that the stores are kings among gas station convenience stores.

Even Mitt Romney loves it. So I’ll let him explain the allure:

“I went in to order a sandwich, you press a little touch tone keypad, alright. You just touch that…touch this, go pay the cashier, there’s your sandwich,” Romney told supporters at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania.

“It’s amazing!”

It is amazing.

The history of Wawa dates back to 1803, when the company was established as an iron foundry in New Jersey. Then, in 1902, it went into the business of dairy farming. More than 60 years later, in 1964, the first Wawa Food Market was born.

At Wawa, there is something for everyone: fresh fruit for the health conscious, half a dozen flavors of coffee 24/7, hoagies made to order, and even surprises like lobster bisque and prime rib.

(Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Wawa is more than a place you coincidentally stop by, it’s a destination. And one that is perhaps deserving of the following lengthy meditation by the Washington Post’s Hank Stuever:

The Philadelphians and Jerseyans all have that unshakably loyal Wawa jones (“youse goin’ to Wawa’s?”), swearing allegiance to the convenience chain’s coffee and its made-to-order hoagies, singing its old jingles (“They do it just a little bit better . . . “). They are Eagles fans and Princeton grads; Amish teenagers on their rumspringa year, schizzed out on doughnuts and Camel Lights. They are those soldiers in Iraq who get packs of Wawa coffee shipped from home.

They are Mr. and Mrs. Scott Gaddis, who, according to a July 2008 item in the always-dishy Convenience Store News, married each other in the Abingdon, Md., Wawa where they get their coffee every morning, their love witnessed by the loyal coffee hostesses who are in every Wawa, who tend the 12, nay 18, Bunn coffee pot burners — the couple’s nuptial bliss as fresh as the aroma of the French roast.

To celebrate the big day, Wawa delighted its fans with free coffee–any size, all day. Now 650 stores strong, the company’s executives celebrated the 50-year marker by re-enacting the first transaction at the very first Folsom, Pa. store—vintage uniforms and all. And Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter proclaimed April 16 as “Wawa Day” in the city.

More than half the country is likely unfamiliar with Wawa, but there are plenty of resources out there that can help.

Clutching their cups of joe, Wawa fans on Twitter spread the love: