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Wawa to debut a hoagie created by Brian Dawkins and a tiny Philly store with a walk-up window

The small prototype store at 16th and Chestnut Streets will be a “test nest" for new products.

Customers exit the Wawa at 6th and Chestnut Streets during Wawa Day celebrations Thursday.
Customers exit the Wawa at 6th and Chestnut Streets during Wawa Day celebrations Thursday.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Wawa’s getting shorti.

The beloved convenience-store chain is planning to open its smallest-ever Philly store — at just under 3,000 square feet — at 16th and Chestnut Streets this fall. The store will be a “test nest" for new products and will include an exterior walk-up window.

But don’t worry, it will still have a door for you to politely hold open for awkwardly long periods for other customers.

Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens unveiled plans for the wee Wawa during the chain’s annual birthday celebration, Wawa Day, which was held this year at its new flagship location at Sixth and Chestnut Streets.

It was just last year on Wawa Day that Gheysens announced plans for the Independence Hall location, which became the Delaware County-based chain’s largest store, at 11,500 square feet, when it opened in December.

Here’s all you need to know to properly celebrate Wawa Day this year:

‘Though she be but little, she be fierce’

Is Mother Goose Wawa testing the Goldilocks principle? Wawa has gone big. Now it’s going small. When is a Wawa just right?

Gheysens says it’s not about the size — it’s about the feeling.

“If we can crack that [smaller] model and still make it feel like a Wawa, then we might be able to move into core urban centers,” he said.

The prototype store will be automated as much as possible, have a walk-up window for pickup orders, and new products like cold-pressed juices, energy shots, and “upscale hot tea” offerings.

“What we hear first and foremost from our customers is they love how convenient we are, but they want it to be even more convenient,” said Terri Micklin, Wawa’s director of construction.

An Eagle in the goose nest

Former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins has tackled the challenge of creating a hoagie for Wawa, but you won’t be able to find it anywhere in Philly.

We’re calling a fowl.

Dawkins, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, created “The Dawk” hoagie — a wheat roll with grilled chicken, spinach, Parmesan cheese, tomato, pickles, sweet peppers, and honey mustard — to benefit the Police Athletic League of Jacksonville. The sandwich will debut at the opening of Jacksonville’s newest Wawa on April 16 and will be available only in that area.

But Philly has a hoagie all its own too: the Broad Street Meatball, created by Zahav chef Michael Solomonov and Wawa chef Farley Kaiser.

The two chefs went head-to-head Thursday in a competition to see who could make more of the sandwiches, which include Wawa’s garlic aioli, two kinds of cheese, and hot chili pepper relish.

Solomonov, the victor, said he had strong motivation to the win the Wally Goose trophy: his son.

“He told me he really wanted me to win the trophy, so I felt like I had to,” he said.

In a world ...

After Wawa Day last year, word spread of filmmaker Matthew Fridg’s intention to direct a full-length documentary called Sheetz Vs. Wawa: The Movie about the rivalry between fans of Sheetz, on the western half of Pennsylvania, and Wawa, on the eastern half of the state.

This week, Fridg started a Kickfunder campaign to raise money for his film. Rewards for donating include having one’s name listed as Team Wawa or Team Sheetz in the credits, a Spotify playlist called “Convenience Store Jams," and a Team Sheetz or Team Wawa employee-style badge.

Officials at Wawa and Sheetz have agreed to participate in the documentary, but Gheysens doubts the director will be able to fulfill the film’s promise of settling the debate “once and for all.”

“I don’t think you’ll ever get that decision,” he said. “I hope people in Philly will always choose Wawa and people in Pittsburgh will probably always choose Sheetz.”

Free as a bird

Every Wawa Day, the chain gives away two million free cups of coffee across all of its locations. In fact, people walked right through the Wawa Day news conference at the Independence Hall location Thursday to get theirs.

Wawa also announced Thursday that its foundation was giving $1 million each to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Philabundance, and the Special Olympics.

The folks from the local branch of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society were among the loudest and most excited of anyone at Wawa Day.

Or perhaps they’d just consumed the most coffee.

Either way, Ellen Rubesin, executive director of the society’s eastern Pennsylvania chapter, said she’s a fervent Wawa fan.

“I love Wawa! My Wawa closed for six months for remodeling and I was beside myself,” she said. "I had to drive a whole mile and a half to get to the next-closest one!”