Wawa’s Flagship at Broad and Walnut Has Opened

Mayor Michael Nutter announced Pope Francis would be given a Wawa hoagie of his choosing.

Wawa Trophies

Photo | Dan McQuade

Mayor Michael Nutter stood at the podium and braced the crowd for a special announcement.

“It is my understanding that it is quite possible, because of where he he lives… that Pope Francis has never had a Wawa hoagie,” Nutter said. “I’m pleased to announce that we expect to serve Pope Francis a Wawa hoagie. I don’t know what he likes, but he can have anything he wants!”

Nutter was at the new flagship Wawa location at Broad and Walnut in the old Robinson Luggage. It opened two months ahead of schedule Friday morning. It is the first new store to open in Center City in about three decades. Wawa “goose-in-chief” (president and CEO) Chris Gheysens said more could be coming.

“Wawa and Philadelphia go together,” Gheysens told Philadelphia magazine. “Philadelphia is our hometown. It was a perfect storm of great location. There’s so much great going on in Center City and in Philadelphia. Frankly, our brand and our strategies have changed to allow us to do something like this.”

The flagship Wawa’s opening was such a joyous event Philadelphians didn’t even boo the mayor.

The new Wawa is the first location ever with indoor seating. “Has anybody gotten a coffee, sat down and plugged in their laptop yet?” Gheysens asked at the event. It’s Center City’s largest, resembling more of a small market than a convenience store. The new location has nine digital screens, with most of them displaying a menu above the deli area.

“We wanted to acknowledge how proud we were to be back in the city,” Wawa store design director Mary-Rose Hannum said. “We wanted the store materials to reflect that.” Most of the design at the new location is custom — “upscale cabinetry, countertops and lighting,” according to a release.

By November, Wawa is planning to roll out juicing, built-to-order salads and a second, more decadent dessert case at the spot. The Robinson Luggage Wawa is not only a flagship store but a bit of a test location — Hannum said the company is eager to see if indoor seating changes customer habits. There are some Wawa locations, mostly in Florida, that feature outdoor seating, but the company has traditionally focused on getting people in and out as quickly as possible.

Wawa cake

Photo | Dan McQuade

Scores of Philadelphians slammed the opening, which featured Swoop, the Eagles cheerleaders and band, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mayor Nutter and officials from several local companies. Wawa is also giving away free coffee today at the location. There was also a hoagie-making competition won by members of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Orchestra members played the national anthem, “Gonna Fly Now” and — most notably — “Amazing Grace” during the grand opening event. Wawa also inducted Michael Nutter into its hall of fame (which, apparently, is not really a thing). They gave him a crystal milk bottle, which the mayor said he’d put “orange juice and something else” into. (Vodka. He was joking that he was going to drink vodka out of it.)

Wawa announced it was donating a portion of proceeds (up to $15,000) from today to the 27th at all six of its Center City stores to the Francis Fund, a new charity organized in honor of the pope’s visit. It helps people in the Philadelphia area who are fighting hunger and homelessness.

Wawa is also providing food to first responders throughout the duration of Pope Francis’ trip to Philadelphia.

“At Wawa we pride ourselves on being there for our hometown communities around the clock and when they need us most,” Gheysens said.”So we are thrilled to not only provide our customers with our most unique store design and experience, but to open and be ready to serve the thousands of people who will be in Philadelphia during this historic time in our city’s history.”

The loudest cheer of the day was when the mayor said the Eagles would beat Dallas this weekend. The ceremony ended with everyone singing “Fly, Eagles, Fly.”