Dressed in their best Wawa run clothes — including a Paddy’s Pub T-shirt, a camouflage Eagles baseball hat, and full-on hospital scrubs — hundreds of current and former Delco residents lined up for the opening of a new Wawa Thursday in Upper Darby, two blocks away from a perfectly fine and operational Wawa on the same road.
Why? Because this is Delaware County (Delco!), Philadelphia’s weird suburban cousin who is so proud of being Philly’s weird suburban cousin that residents hang county-shaped Delco flags from their front porch and consider Wawa their second hewm (or home, to those without the Delco accent).
Wawa celebrated the opening by proclaiming Thursday Mare of Easttown Day, a nod to the locally-set HBO series which prominently features references to the beloved Delco-based convenience store chain. The opening also coincided with Delco Day, a state-recognized day on June 10 (6/10), which is a nod to the county’s 610 area code.
One of actresses in Mare of Easttown, Kassie Mundhenk, attended the opening, as did Tom Ingelsby, dad of the show’s creator Brad Ingelsby. Chester County Detective Christine Bleiler, who was Kate Winslet’s local “go-to person” for character advice and inspiration, was also on hand and stepped behind the counter to make a ceremonial hoagie.
The first 100 people in line received a free limited-edition Wawa Delco T-shirt, which ran out so quickly those who didn’t snag one were going around the parking lot trying to buy them off of people who did (”Please! It’s for my niece who’s coming hewm from Nashville!” one woman begged).
First in line for the 8 a.m. opening was Kathleen Martin, 63, of Drexel Hill, who arrived at the store at 5:30 a.m. in a Phillies shirt.
“I love Mare of Easttown! I love Wawa! And I love free T-shirts!” Martin said. “Plus, I get up at 4 in the morning. What else am I gonna do?”
Martin was also among the first to try Wawa’s Mare of Easttown Spicy Cheesesteak before 9 a.m., which she gave two thumbs up (with one thumb poking through the bottom of a hoagie wrapper).
The show got a lot right, Martin said, but it also made “Delco look like a really depressing place to live with some really sad people.”
“I’ve lived in Delco for like 10 years and that’s not been my experience,” she said. “Three of my best friends were born and raised in Delco and they’re not sad and depressed.”
Stan Cheeseman, 70, of Garnet Valley, came to the opening wearing a Wawa Coffeetopia hat and a Wawa T-shirt, over which he put his new Wawa Delco T-shirt.
“You can never have enough Wawa shirts,” said the self-proclaimed “snowbird,” who also attended the grand opening of the first Wawa in Florida several years ago.
Cheeseman binged Mare of Easttown at his daughter’s house, he said, because “she has the HBO.”
“It’s nice they included the Wawa in the show because it’s a Delco institution,” he said. “Wawa is a testament to the American dream, look how it can survive and thrive in these times.”
Charneen Briggs, 50, of Darby, who attended the opening with her husband, Todd, and a bedazzled Wawa coffee mug that she “blinged out” herself, said she hasn’t seen Mare of Easttown and came purely out of a love for Wawa.
“This is my safe house,” she said. “I come to Wawa all the time.”
Briggs said when a Burlington Coat Factory at the site at 418 W. Baltimore Pike was torn down and new construction started, she made a bet with her husband.
“When they was building it I kept saying to my husband ‘This is about to be a Wawa’ and he’d say ‘No it’s not. No it’s not,’ so we made a bet,” she said. “It was only $25, but it was enough.”
As the doors opened at 8 a.m., store associate John Mercer, 31, of Swarthmore, took to the microphone to welcome customers as the Rocky theme song played in the background. Quoting Pennsylvania’s own Mister Rogers, Mercer said “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”
“I was pepping them up, you know how it is, just like we’re at a Phillies game,” he said.
Actress Kassie Mundhenk, 19, who plays Moira Ross, the daughter of Kate Winslet’s character’s best friend on the show, was flocked by fans asking her to take selfies with them and sign their Wawa Delco shirts.
“It was a great experience doing it with Kate Winslet and Julianne Nicholson,” Mundhenk said of Mare of Easttown.
One of the people who asked Mundhenk to sign her Wawa Delco shirt was Tricia Beichner, a Drexel Hill native who now lives in Wilmington. Beichner was an extra in Mare of Easttown and appeared in a funeral scene with Kate Winslet and Jean Smart that was filmed in a Marcus Hook rowhouse.
“I had to come for a hewgie (hoagie) and a Coke,” she said. “I can push the buttons on the touch screen and order a hewgie under 10 seconds.”
Beichner said one of her favorite parts of Mare of Easttown was when actress Jean Smart said “smacked a--.”
“I say ‘smacked a--,’ so when Jean Smart said it, my friend, who thought it was just something I said, finally realized it was a Delco thing,” she said.