Here’s What Went Down at Wawa’s Madhouse Birthday Party

As part of its Wawa Day birthday celebration, a band played inside the 17th and Arch Wawa this morning. Also: Free coffee all day!


Mayor Michael Nutter and Wawa President/CEO Chris Gheysens pour the “first cup” of free coffee for Wawa Day. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

The Wawa at 17th and Arch often pulsates with activity. It’s the closest Wawa to many Philadelphia office buildings, including the Comcast Center across the street. But, on Thursday morning, this Wawa was even more mobbed than usual. Not only was Wawa offering free coffee — the chain’s first location opened on April 16th, 1964 — but Mayor Michael Nutter was making an appearance to officially declare today Wawa Day.

Wawa store No. 86 is the closest Wawa to the Philadelphia magazine offices, as well, so I stopped by to check out the dog-and-pony show.

Wawa band

A band played at the 17th and Arch location for Wawa Day. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

Think of the most crowded Wawa you’ve ever seen. Now add a three-piece band, a goose mascot (Wally Goose) wandering around the store terrifying customers, a sandwich mascot (Shorti) standing around, the mayor and his entourage, Councilman Mark Squilla and his people and representatives from the Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Club, American Red Cross and City Year Philadelphia. Also, several TV people with cameras and PR people. And me.

“I do a lot of these, but this is the best,” Mayor Nutter said, appearing the happiest he’s looked all second term. He earlier joked that a new poll was being commissioned to determine which sandwich Philadelphians liked better: The Nutter Classic or the Rendelli.

The mayor and Chris Gheysens, Wawa’s president and CEO, poured the “official” first cup of coffee, though the brews had actually been flowing all morning. Wawa says it estimated it would be giving out 1.5 million cups of coffee today. “There’s going to be a lot of people staying awake today,” Nutter said. Customers at the 17th and Arch location were waiting about 10 minutes for a free cup this morning.

Wawa announced the formation of the Wawa Foundation a year ago on its 50th birthday. The company has committed to giving away $50 million to “health, hunger and everyday heroes” by 2015. The foundation has currently raised just over $10 million. At Thursday’s event, large novelty checks were given out to the four groups in attendance — including $100,000 to the American Red Cross. Wawa was announcing a total of $1 million in grants to charitable groups today.

No one in line for free coffee seemed to pay much attention to the event — until people in line exploded in applause when Nutter mentioned the new flagship Wawa coming to Broad and Walnut. (See renderings and more info about the property here.)

The event ended, and the Wawa eventually settled down a bit. The free coffee’s available all day, if you need a pick-me-up.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.

A year ago: 50 Things About Wawa for Wawa’s 50th Birthday

Previously: It’s a Wawa World

Previously: The 5 Worst Wawa Parking Lots in the Philly Area