Mornings with Flo

Posted: August 24, 2014

STONE HARBOR - Wawa Flo is on a break. A cig break, is what the @WawaFlo Twitter feed would say. That's not actually Flo's Twitter feed, but one run by her fans. Of which there are many. They also call her Florence of Wawa. She's worked at the Stone Harbor Wawa for 25 years with a growly voice, a default phrase of "Oh, OK," and a not overly chipper friendliness spun over decades. It's a Wawa with a wide clientele: borough workers, celebrities, year-round skateboard rats, and that old Stone Harbor summer mansion standby - the kids sent from their parents' big Shore house to get dinner at the Wawa. The other morning, Flo, aka Florence Ingersoll, 75, switched her black Wawa apron for a tan "Morning Brightener" one - seemed the thing to do, she said, for the interview - but made it clear it takes more than an apron to be a Wawa legend.

Question: Flo, you're kind of famous.

Answer: Oh, OK. Years ago, somebody started a Facebook. Someone down in Avalon. They wouldn't tell me who they were. Everybody looks at Facebook: "We saw you on Facebook." I've never seen it. It's called "Party with Flo."

Q: What does that mean?

A: I don't know. Years ago we had a party, like a Christmas party.

Q: You're also on Twitter.

A: Oh, OK. I didn't know that, either.

Q: What is it about you that has created this cult following?

A: Probably because I've been here. These kids were in baby coaches or just born when I got here. Now they're in college or got married or having children of their own. They come in.

Q: What did you do before Wawa?

A: I worked at Henny's for 11 years. I was a fry cook. I left there because my mother was sick. I took care of my mother for a few years. My youngest daughter was going to college, so I went to work at Wawa. I liked the job so I stayed. I liked the people.

Q: How would you describe your persona?

A: I'm always cheerful in the morning.

Q: You're a day brightener, like the apron.

A: They gave me a choice of two aprons. There's all different personalities. Some are very cheerful. Some are not.

Q: Big question: Can you tell the locals from the summer people?

A: Well, sometimes. Generally by what they buy or what they have on a hoagie. Like they have different things on there. Mustard or mayonnaise. Or ketchup. Pickles. Here, basically everybody has oil. A lot of them really doctor up a hoagie.

Q: Do the very wealthy Stone Harbor people come into Wawa?

A: We've even had Oprah in here one time. Her boyfriend, Stedman, is a Whitesboro native, which is like five miles away. She was here for a thing in Whitesboro but stayed at the Reeds.

Q: She came in for what, coffee?

A: I think she did come in for coffee.

Q: Did you say hello, Oprah?

A: I just pretended I didn't know who she was.

Q: Did she say, "Are you 'Party with Flo'?"

A: That she didn't.

Ron Jaworski comes in every once in awhile. I did ask him for his autograph one time, for a manager who wouldn't ask. I think it was on a checkout slip.

Q: What is it about Wawa? People leave, all they talk about is they miss Wawa.

A: They have what they want. We have one boy who comes in, he's eating meatballs for years. In a cup. He just graduated. For four years he went to Pennsylvania to a college. When he came home, he wanted his meatballs.

Q: When people walk in, does their order flash in your mind?

A: Well, especially cigarettes. The ones that come in day after day after day, you almost know what they smoke.

Q: The before/after of Memorial Day must be nuts.

A: It's like tenfold. All of a sudden, all the colleges are out. People are down.

Q: Do you dread it?

A: In a way you look forward to it. In the spring, you try to keep going without as much help as you should have. Until colleges get out, schools get out.

Q: Are you planning to retire soon?

A: I like working. It's interesting. Throughout the years, it's been a lot of changes at Wawa. As far as who delivers, who delivers produce. We no longer make the wraps. We used to cut fruit. My only thing is, it's not Wawa's fault because they have a different concept. In the wintertime when we're the only grocery store open, Wawa is no longer going to be a convenience store. We have no vegetables anymore. No frozen things. I just feel sorry for the older people who used to come in and get vegetables and get a frozen meal. They took all that out.

There's nothing in Stone Harbor in the winter. There's not even a drugstore. Everything else that's open, closes. There's no supermarket. They used to come in for lunch meat. We no longer have lunch meat.

Q: There's no drugstore?

A: There used to be, but the man who was the druggist, he got killed on a motorcycle.

Q: Did you have more conversations with people years ago?

A: Oh, yes. Because you personally asked them what they wanted on their hoagies. Now it's just popping up on the screen.

Q: What's it like to be called Party with Flo?

A: Oh, it's fine with me. Maybe some day I'll get to do it.

(Interview condensed and edited.)



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