Wawa: When a store is more than convenience

wawa-6400-Bustleton-Avenue

Whenever I read about a Wawa getting held up, it makes me want to cry inside. Wawas are sacred places and should be respected, not robbed.

A Wawa on Roosevelt Boulevard in the Northeast got robbed Friday by a guy who drove off on a motorcycle. On St. Patrick’s Day, police said a man robbed the Wawa on Cottman Avenue in Burlhome. In that case, a suspect was arrested the next day after the man was recognized on a store surveillance video released by police.

Of course Philadelphians turned in the gunman. The dude broke a local commandment: Thou shalt not mess with Wawa. Let’s hope the other thief gets caught soon, too. The coffee, hoagies and Tastykake treats must be protected.

I love Wawa with a passion made stronger because I lived in the South for 10 years and had to do without. No Wawa milk, no turkey-n-gravy in a bowl, no flavored coffee creamers.

I left the Philadelphia area in the 1990s and moved to Fayetteville, N.C., for a newspaper job. It was quite the culture shock for a Philly chick like me. People spoke with funny accents, drank iced tea out of jelly jars and ate fried okra. I learned to love fried okra — mostly because I discovered that foods fried in lard are DELICIOUS. But there were no Wawas.

Instead, there was The Pantry. These stores featured foods with which I was not acquainted, such as pickled eggs (which glow ruby red in a jar full of brine). There were pork rinds. Actually, there were several kinds of pork rinds, like original, barbecue and baked (because that makes them healthier?) Also, boiled peanuts in a can and something called “potted meat.”

My friends in Fayetteville tell me “The Pantry” stores are now called “Kangaroo Express” and they feature their own brand of coffee. Oh and pork rinds, of course.

My Philadelphia-born mother and sister moved to Central Florida years ago but never forgot about Wawa. Recently, Wawa expanded into the state and one of the stores opened in Casselberry, Fla., just minutes from my family. My sister and her husband drove there on the first day that Wawa was open for business. There was already a line out the door.

After a bit of a wait, my family got their hoagies — a thousand miles from Philadelphia — and were happy. And if Wawa wants to add fried okra to its menu of sides, that would make me happy, too.

Kathryn Quigley is an associate professor of journalism at Rowan University and a Philadelphia native. Contact her at kathrynsquigley@gmail.com.



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