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PHILADELPHIA -- Years after largely exiting the Center City area of Philadelphia, Wawa has returned with today's grand opening of a new expanded and redesigned store that is nearly double its former size. Located at the corner of 17th Street and Arch Street, the approximately 5,000-square-foot store focuses on sandwiches, espresso and prepared foods and serves as a model for the convenience store chain's expansion into Florida, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"Believe me, I wish we could find more sites to do what we did at Arch Street," Wawa CEO Howard Stoeckel told the news outlet, adding that the site's landlord asked the company to stay and bought out a neighboring location to accommodate the store's growth. "I wish we could expand more of our stores in Philadelphia."
Wawa closed the existing store for three months and spent half a million dollars to update it to be consistent with the chain's modern-day brand identity, according to the report. Developers granted the company the extra space after deciding to convert the building to apartments.
"In Philadelphia, Wawa's considered an amenity," said Stoeckel. "People like to live near a Wawa."
Some locals in the real estate community expressed surprise at the opening of the new store when Wawa has closed other nearby smaller stores in recent years, but Stoeckel stated that Wawa is committed to Center City.
"You've got to reinvent the business and make intelligent real estate decisions if you're going to be an enduring, sustainable organization," he said. "When you walk in this store, you feel like you're in a restaurant, that you're in a fast, casual establishment to go. It puts us in the league of Corner Bakery, Cosi, Au Bon Pain."