Places We Can’t Understand: The Dirty Dirty-Ass Wawa At 11th And Arch


View Larger Map

This week, Wawa will thrown down untold piles of dollars (and a 4.5 ton hoagie) and create even more goodwill for itself by being the branded-in sponsor of the Welcome America festivities, all but one of which take place in Center City. But this, of course, flies in the face of the fact that, besides Welcome America, Wawa doesn’t have much time for Center City these days. Over the last few years, most Center City Wawa locations have closed, as the chain has aggressively opened more locations in the nearby suburbs. It’s hard not to feel like it’s a slight: Most Philadelphians have grown up on Wawa, and view the Wawa hoagie as a kind of natural birthright. That they’ve all but pulled out of downtown in these last few years but continue to use the city as one of their principal annual branding opportunities kind of feels like that long-ago white-flighted cousin who’s always going on and on about how great the city is: If it’s so goddamned great, then why aren’t you here?

One of the few locations that remain is the Wawa at 1038 Arch Street, and it’s not just an aberration in that it’s a Wawa in Center City Philadelphia. It’s also fucking filthy. Like, disgusting. Part of this is because it’s hard to keep anything clean underneath that Chinatown bus overpass (poor Dim Sum Garden, you are so great and you deserve so much better than this); part of it is because it’s a living metaphor for Wawa’s real attitude towards Center City. It would rather not be here and it’s just sort of biding time until it can withdraw completely. Security guards check their cellphones while the homeless wade in and out, openly panhandling in the store as tourists and those who live and work in the area dodge them. One of the doors seems to be permanently locked. There is a prevailing negative vibe and a chaotic sense that anything could happen here at anytime. It’s sort of like that Dave Chapelle skit where he goes to the Internet like it’s a real place. In fact, we’re not always 100% percent sure that it’s still even a Wawa, but rather, one of those Ghost Wawas like the one at Second and Catharine. It’s a place we don’t understand, and by gum, it’s a place we sure as hell don’t like.

Is there a Place You Can’t Understand in Philly? Some nook or cranny that makes no sense whatsoever? Let us know about it at tips[at]philebrity[dot]com.

  • http://eagleapex.com eagleapex

    They close my nice neighborhood wawa in Queen Village to boost their bottom line, but let this shit stay open.

  • jme0909

    Well they were playing “I’ll Be You” by the Replacements when I was in there last week. Mulligan for life.

  • Fagnew

    Thank god WaWa’s are closing…I hope this continues. Viva OLD NELSON !

  • The Drama King

    No lie, Rendell just declared the Wawa shorti the official sandiwch of Philadelphia at the Wawa Hoagie Orgy (whorgie?). Forget about cheesesteak. Kids give away 4.5 tons of sandwiches and all of a sudden they get the keys to the city.

  • bgurly

    I pass this everyday leaving work. It’s a disgrace to all Wawa’s. That overpass is 1 of the black holes of Market East where urine & panhandlers really give a horrid impression of the city to all the out-of-towners. Doesn’t help that they closed the meth clinic a couple blocks away.

  • conkyfilms

    In unrelated news, does anyone know why 676 has been showing up as “Quebec Route 366″ on Google Maps lately (scroll up a little in the embedded map). Were we annexed while nobody was paying attention? Tabarnac de câlisse!

  • http://markskull.blogspot.com/ Larry

    It really isn’t half as bad as your saying it is.

    The outside is dirty, but inside? Its actually pretty nice. They re-did the entire interior a few months ago.

  • schmapty

    I always felt that Wawa loyalty was a suburban mook thing. When asked the best thing about Philadelphia they always say Wawa. Lame.
    Personally I could take them or leave them, but I always liked the Chinatown Wawa. They keep it real there.

  • dbritt

    They ran out of hoagie! How is 4.5 tons not enough hoagie?!

  • chuck63

    Not for nothin’, but growing up in the city? No such thing as a Wawa. I thought it was ALWAYS a suburban thing and the city was a secondary market for them. Wawas are to neighborhood corner stores what Wal-Marts are to small town main streets.

  • tips

    @chuck63: Clearly you do not recall the glory days of TACO BELL/PIZZA HUT WAWAS at 2nd and Catherine and 16th and Walnut. My stoned 1990s couldn’t have happened without them!

  • mBeck

    hear here tips! ‘Taco Bell Express’ *owch*

  • schmapty

    I will admit that the 38th st Wawa that sold booze was pretty awesome back in the day.

  • dc

    there was a meth clinic near the queen village wawa that closed? if it weren’t for the meth clinic near the 38th/spruce wawa, my daily lunch wouldn’t be half as interesting. you know, hearing shouted affectations like “you stupid c*nt, that’s how much i f*cking love you!” in the middle of my day really helps me stay connected with my people.

  • LB

    jesus christ, that wawa is fine – everything doesn’t have to be as spic and span as the fucking piazza in northernlibertysphere to be good – you think people coming from seeing fuckczar at the troc want tidy? So don’t get a pound of swiss at 11th and arch – get some cigarettes and move along.

  • schmapty

    Right, sometimes you just need a tasty kake to eat on the Chinatown bus.

  • Tvox

    “I will admit that the 38th st Wawa that sold booze was pretty awesome back in the day.”

    Prior to its Wawa-ification in the late 80′s, it was a strange convenience store called the Bald Fox. They sold black soap at the counter. You could get drunk in the bar section next door. Some pals of mine worked there. It was assumed that the whipped cream cans were drained of their propellant. Actually, I knew this for a fact, but I kept quiet about it.

  • Allan Smithee

    re: Larry Says – June 29th, 2011 at 12:17 pm
    “It really isn’t half as bad as your saying it is.”

    If you don’t buy a pack of cigs, they will charge you for matches regardless. No freebies here poor punk person.

    $0.10-$0.15 <– I know. I've put it on my debit card.

  • lightonfire

    what LB said. fuck the piazza.

  • http://www.citiesinpixiedust.com citiesinpixiedust

    @ conkyfilms
    I noticed that – Quebec route 366 – a few weeks ago as well, when I was mapping out a running route

  • http://hedancesfornickels.blogspot.com Handsome Pete

    In the grand scheme of things I count myself lucky to live and work near some of the last CC Wawas (17th and Arch, 21st and Hamilton and the Chinatown jewel).

    The Chinatown Wawa never stood a chance. Bus station. Chinatown. CJC. Market East. The Gallery. It’s a nexus of undesirables.

    Still. I find the one near Show & Tel to be far sketchier.

    And yes. Viva La Old Nelson!

  • lucyluwho

    I don’t think it’s that bad, either. I’m not moving in, I’m just getting lunch and going back to the J.O.B., and am grateful it’s so close to work.

    PS – The free hoagie on the Mall was delicious, and we only waited in line five minutes. Long live Wawa! Move away from here and trust me, you’ll miss it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=62144041792 Sugar Town

    @Tips: Looks we spent our 90s stoned on the same wonderful/crappy food, but the Wawa on 2nd is on Christian, not Catherine. I was super bummed when it closed. The one on Del Ave near the 95 S exit is a mixed bag, but still better than 11th and Arch.