Inside the New Tiny Wawa: What’s Different From the Fancy Flagship (and What’s the Same)

For starters, this will be the first Wawa ever to offer hot pre-made Italian and turkey hoagies.

The brand-new tiny Wawa opened at 8 a.m. Friday morning. There’s free coffee all weekend. | Photo by Claire Sasko

At last, Philly’s brand-new baby Wawa has arrived: The chain opened the doors to its smallest store in Philly — and the second-smallest in the world, behind a tiny location in Fort Washington — on Friday morning.

The store, located near the intersection of 16th and Chestnut streets, will celebrate its debut with free coffee all weekend long. We repeat: all weekend long.

Other than its size, of course, there are a few things that make this concept Wawa different. You may recall that just a year ago, and to a chorus of huzzahs, the convenience store opened its flagship location 10 blocks away, at 6th and Chestnut streets. (The fact that it’s just 10 blocks away really speaks to the volume of Wawas in Philly nowadays.) Below, we highlight some similarities and differences between the two locations to help get you acclimated to the new, very small Wawa.

(And yes, we’ve seen your comments boasting about the thimble-sized Wawa you used to frequent behind the trash cans in the alleyway next to the Whatever Building. That closed in 1983, and it’s 2020 now. Catch up.)

First, the differences

  • This Wawa is all about very quick service. The biggest indicator of the focus on speed and efficiency here — which Wawa says is designed to fit Center City’s bustling, corporate vibe — is the pickup window located on 16th Street, just beside the door to the Wawa. Without ever entering the store, customers can pick up items they ordered and paid for via Wawa’s mobile app, including hot food like hoagies and coffee, as well as sides like chips and cold drinks.

    The store offers an expanded “To Go” section, stocked with some of the most popular items in Philly, and a new “Hot To Go” section, where you can find not only Sizzlis and bagel melts, but also pre-made turkey and Italian hoagies if you don’t want to wait for a custom order. For those who do want to customize, the ordering process is pretty streamlined: You’ll find five screens right next to the door, and from there you can proceed to the cashier and onward to a small indoors pickup window. Only grabbing tea or coffee? Head the other way for the tea and coffee bars and a second cashier on that side.

Wawa’s new pickup window. | Photo by Claire Sasko

  • This Wawa features unique drink specials. Find “upscale,” pyramid-style loose-leaf tea bags from Revolution Tea (which are pretty tasty), as well as other hot drink specialties available only at this location, like an Earl Grey lavender tea latte (Wawa’s first tea latte), a chocolate espresso Molten Lava Latte (very good, I can confirm), and the “Troubador,” a double-shot espresso latte. Another first for Wawa? Agave on the coffee fixings bar, so you can feel hip and healthy despite being in a Wawa. Plus, the chain just announced that it now serves only 100 percent sustainably sourced coffee, including for the store’s freshly brewed iced coffee line. (Sorry, kombucha lovers, there’s no draft kombucha like the kind you can get at the flagship.)
  • This Wawa offers some sustainability perks. At the coffee fixings bar, you’ll find compostable straws, bamboo stirrers, and recycled lids. The Wawa associates are wearing specially designed uniforms made out of recycled material, and the store will also soon sell reusable Wawa mugs and bags. The location will still offer plastic stirrers and straws, though. (Maybe that’s something Wawa should consider phasing out as it moves into the future.)
tiny wawa

The tea and coffee fixings bar is located in front of the expanded to-go case. | Photo by Claire Sasko

What’s similar

  • Both are going to be very busy. Because of its location (and size and significance, of course), the flagship attracts workers, shoppers and tourists in Old City and Washington Square West. It’s crowded almost all the time. The new tiny Wawa is located smack dab in the middle of the city, near a busy intersection and in an area dense with corporate buildings, offices, retail, and restaurants. Plus, it’s tiny, so it’s going to fill up a lot more quickly than the flagship. We’re just hoping Wawa’s efforts to create a “streamlined” order/pay/leave design works.
  • Both have Philly-themed murals. At the flagship, you’ll find two stunning “Philly First” murals designed by Keir Johnston and the late Willis Humphrey of Mural Arts Philadelphia. At the new tiny Wawa, you’ll find “Philly Groove,” by illustrator Gaëtane Michaux, who lives in Bala Cynwyd. Photo below.
  • Both are testing grounds for the future of Wawa. The Wawas are two of six locations Wawa is using to test out new products. You may have noticed fancy salads and grain bowls at the flagship. At the new Wawa, items currently being tested include the Troubador and Molten Lava Latte, as well as the new hot tea bar and some of the sustainable items. Expect more in the future.

You’ll find five order screens as soon as you enter the store. | Photo by Claire Sasko

One of the cashier stations, located in front of the “Philly Groove” mural. | Photo by Claire Sasko

The “Order Up” window. | Photo by Claire Sasko

The hot drink line. | Photo by Claire Sasko