Why Do Former Wawas Always Look Like Wawa?

You can spot ’em a mile away.

former wawa

The ultimate insult: a Wawa on Mystic Island that’s been turned into a 7-Eleven. Photo via Google Street View.

It was one of the great sadnesses of my life as a native Center Cityan when the Rittenhouse Square Wawa closed. I’d done so much growing up there — bought countless packs of to-be-regretted-later cigarettes, hidden from my parents in the depths of my backpack; giggled with my friends over the Playboys and Penthouses in the very back rows of the magazine racks; stocked up on Butterscotch Krimpets and Jolly Ranchers before the daylong vigils by the fountain in the park, waiting for the boys to walk by.

And then, in 2008, it closed and became  (gasp!) a 7-Eleven. What fresh hell was this? Every day my Center City childhood disappears a bit more, crumbling into Burberry or Cole Hahn ash. But come on, people! Some things are sacred! (At least it didn’t become a Sheetz.)

The Inquirer‘s Tom Gralish is also sentimental about Wawa. The staff photographer “has been stopping at Wawas around the region between assignments for over thirty years,” says philly.com, where his latest photo essay, “New uses for old Wawas,” appears. It’s a collection of photographs compiled over the past couple years of buildings that once were Wawas.

From Gralish’s blog:

In the 90’s, the chain of convenience store/gas stations in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey down to southern Virginia (and Florida) starting building “Super Wawas,” – larger stores that added the gasoline pumps. When the new stores opened, the company sold off the older, smaller stores and a few years ago, I started photographing the new businesses in the old Wawas as they remained recognizable, often retaining their distinctive stone front and peaked front roof line.

Many have become other convenience stores, but some have departed the business entirely, like the rather surprising dental office in Sewell, NJ.

What about the Rittenhouse 7-Eleven? It didn’t look like a Wawa to begin with, so all traces are gone. And now if you want to buy cigarettes, you have to show I.D.

To see Tom’s essay, go here.