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FLOWERS: Why We Gotta Have Our Wawa

A few years ago, a friend and I were driving around Delco, and he pointed out the car window and said, “That’s the original Wawa.” It was a nondescript building, the classic one-story, red-roofed convenience store that we’d come to know and love over the years.

But I was seized with a feeling I can only describe as awe, the same sort of awe I feel when I pass by Independence Hall or walk among the rolling hills at Valley Forge.

Go ahead — laugh. I get it. It’s not a battlefield or birthplace of democracy, fine.

But it is where real live Americans — and in particular, Pennsylvanians — snag a cup of java, Colombian roast, as we rush off to work. It’s the place where, when we can’t sleep, is still open to serve up and cup of chicken corn chowder and an apple fritter of questionable vintage. It’s the place where kids, released from academic bondage, swarm to purchase their Sizzlis, their meatball hoagies, and their Smoothies. It’s where you can take money out of the ATM without a service charge.

It’s Wawa.

And so perhaps for all of those reasons, I choked up as I looked on that historic store, which was soon to close and be replaced with something else that doesn’t even matter. Wawa has become so deeply embedded in our psyche and our culture in Delaware County and beyond.

Sure, the other four counties have embraced it, and with gusto. Why wouldn’t they? But it’s ours.

Wawa is a uniquely Delco institution, a mark of being “from here.” It’s a place where they only sell “wooder,” not “wahter.” Where you can ask for paper “tals,” not “towels,” and they will kindly oblige because you spilled your Coke all over your Prendie-Bonner, or O’Hara uniform.

It’s a place where, while everyone might not know your name, they damn well know how you pronounce it. (“Yo, Mare, can you get me a few packs o’ gum while yer at the registurrr?”)

April 16 marks Wawa’s 60th anniversary, and they’re handing out free coffee to celebrate. I was 2 going on 3 when they opened their first store in Folsom, and while I had no idea at the time the role that the chain would play in my life, I grew up in its benevolent shadow.

As a Delco almost native (52 years qualifies me for the pedigree,) I have a personal reason to love and support Wawa. In fact, everyone who loves Wawa does so for personal reasons.

For those of us who see its light on in the wee hours of the morning after a college all-nighter, it has taken on an almost religious significance as in “Hallelujah, I can get my breaded chicken wings over a bowl of mashed potatoes, to be followed by 87 of those miniature foil-wrapped Reese’s cups at the counter.”

Wawa has been a part of our lives for as long as I can remember, and it will remain a treasured part of each random moment of cravings until I shake this mortal coil. That is why seeing that building was like coming home to Mecca on the boulevard.

There are some sad, confused people who, due to their lack of culture, consider Sheetz an acceptable alternative. Some, I’m told, even consider those cold, stark stores superior to our Wawa’s. I assume those people are elderly or befuddled. It’s the sort of opinion I would expect to hear from the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

These are the sort of people who told my friend Sandra when she was touring Pittsburgh that Philadelphia lost whatever importance it ever had after the Constitution was signed.

“Sheetz?” Really? That doesn’t sound like a store. It sounds like something a Delco guy would say on a bad day.

I love my Wawa, and if you have to ask why, you’re in the wrong county.


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