Philadelphia-area convenience store icon Wawa has had its sights on getting its Florida stores back on track in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens says it's been a whirlwind trying to get the chain’s 122 stores in Florida online – as of midday Tuesday about 85 of them are open.
"All the way down into Naples we just opened a couple weeks ago where the eye passed right over," he said.
Some are open with just gas, but not the store. One of the biggest challenges is power. They have about 10 portable generators and are borrowing another 10 (including from competitor Sheetz).
"Portable generators are really the way to go," Gheysens said. "There's always been a debate. Do you have generators in every store? Power comes in and out."
Wawa is working to get employees to the stores where they need help the most. Some volunteers from the Philadelphia region will be going down to help.
The company has learned some lessons from Sandy, including closing stores early so employees could take care of their family, Gheysens said. Employees can come back as they are ready, hence the need for more help.
Like they did with Hurricane Harvey, Wawa is launching an in-store donation drive for Irma relief starting Tuesday with money going toward the American Red Cross' Irma relief efforts. The fundraiser will run for 10 days. The Harvey drive raised $700,000.
"I think we're still getting a sense right now of what the damage is and what the need is," Gheysens said. "I can tell you it's going to be significant."
They're also sending out trucks of ice, water and food made here and going to Food pantries in Florida.
"We have two water tankers now deployed down to Fort Myers where they have boil advisories on water," Gheysens said. "They're putting water in our store so we can make coffee for customers down there as well."