If you’ve noticed that everyone in Center City has a little more spring in their step this week, you know why: The Wawa has reopened.
And what a Wawa it is! A press release from the company calls it “a milestone in the company’s history” in big bold text. It’s twice as big as the old location, features 10 doors of cold drinks (there were eight previously) and “in-store fresh roll baking for hoagies,” just in time for Hoagiefest. There’s also a separate line for cigarettes, which should speed up wait times a bit. And it’s nice and new and clean! There are even public bathrooms, which give the area the most public restrooms (Suburban Station, Comcast Center, Wawa) per capita of anywhere in Center City.
Wawa, which opened its first store in 1964 in Delaware County, is holding a grand re-opening of the store today at 9 a.m. Amazingly, Wawa’s 17th and Arch location has now been open for 35 years today (minus the three-plus months it was closed this spring). The celebration today has all the things one can expect in a Wawa grand re-opening: Store general manager Ryan Weinsheimer will sing “a special rendition of the National Anthem,” mascot Wally Goose will stumble around and Wawa will give Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia a giant ceremonial check for $50,000.
And, since it’s an event in downtown Philadelphia, Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin will be there to get a ceremonial key to the store. Presumably the key actually works, but it’s “ceremonial” since it’s a 24-hour store and the doors are never locked. And, being upstanding historical figures, Betsy and Ben would never do anything like lock the doors and rob the Wawa.
It was just about four and a half years ago people were angry at Wawa for closing two of its Center City locations. Wawactivists even protested outside on the 20th and Locust location’s last night. There are way fewer Wawas in Center City and its outskirts than there were years ago, many of which are now inferior delis. My favorite ex-Wawa is Food Express, at 8th and Bainbridge, which looks exactly like a Wawa did in the late 1990s. It’s like a time machine!
More power to those who can react with righteous indignation at Wawa’s suburban drift. But I can’t help but love the place. I can’t put my finger on it, really. Memories of late-night Wawa runs in high school help, sure, and Wawa is the only place in the city to get a hot dog at 4 a.m. Or maybe it’s just that the only reliable 24-hour alternative is the 7-Eleven, with floors so sticky they must have been washed with Slurpees. People seem to agree: There are so many Wawa tattoos! Whatever magic marketing tricks Wawa is doing, it works on me.
So, yeah, pretty pumped about this new Wawa, guys. (And a new Fuel location is opening across the street!) Since I’ve said so much about this new one, let’s rank the four remaining Wawa locations in Center City.
4. 2nd between South and Lombard. This one is actually quite large, but it ranks last simply because it has the highest chance of running into teens and douchebags (or, teen douchebags) who hang on South Street.
3. 11th and Arch. This one is in a parking garage. But it’s a good place to hit before or after a show at the Trocadero and is the Center City East equivalent of the new one six blocks away.
2. 10th and Walnut. This is a double-wide Wawa, like the one on 2nd. It’s close to two hospitals so it’s pretty crowded at all hours of the night, and half the clientele seems to be in scrubs sometimes.
1. 17th and Arch. This Wawa is so nice I now want every Center City Wawa to be renovated. Sadly, not every Wawa is across the street from Center City’s tallest building (where 5,000 people work). I tried to get Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce to clue us in on any future renovation plans “As always, if opportunities present themselves, we evaluate them,” she said. “We waited many years for this opportunity to come about and to be able to respond.” No dice, but for now I’m content.