The northeast corner of Tyson Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard has been barren since December 2008, when the Northeast Lincoln Mercury car dealership abruptly closed.
Ever since the last car pulled out of the lot, there seemed to be an obvious replacement.
A block away, at 2847-49 Tyson Ave., was a Wawa convenience store, located in a small shopping center. The store was modest in size and did not include gasoline pumps.
Three years after the larger site became available, Wawa is officially open for business.
The store at Tyson and Brous avenues closed at 8 a.m. last Friday, precisely the time the Boulevard location opened.
Mike Marino has spent 18 years with Wawa, including the last two as general manager of a store in Horsham. He also was GM of a store in Pipersville, Bucks County.
Marino was asked if the new store was unique in any way compared to other Wawa locations.
“Obviously, we have the Route 1 traffic,” he said.
The store is surrounded by residences, businesses and countless vehicles on Tyson Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard.
“This is an awesome location,” said Maureen Murphy, director of store operations for Wawa in Philadelphia and Bucks County and part of Montgomery County.
Murphy said the large Wawa stores with gas pumps are becoming the norm.
“We have seven more already signed and in land development,” she said.
The company official wouldn’t name the new sites, but one has already been publicly identified as at the intersection of Krewstown Road and Grant Avenue, on the current site of a gas station.
Wawa, a privately held company, isn’t abandoning its smaller stores. In fact, the company will tear down a building at an adjacent used-car dealer lot to increase parking for customers of the store at 7715 Frankford Ave.
The company is based in a town in Delaware County called Wawa. The first store opened in 1964 in Folsom, Delaware County as an outlet for dairy products.
Peter Gilligan, Wawa’s senior vice president of real estate, described the company as a “convenience and retail industry leader.”
Today, there are 580 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, all company owned and operated.
Some 298 stores offer gasoline, a feature that was introduced a little more than a decade ago. Most are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There are about 17,000 employees.
In the stores, there are more than 6,000 items in stock. The big sellers include cold beverages, coffee, hot and cold built-to-order sandwiches, bakery products and hot breakfast sandwiches.
A popular amenity is surcharge-free ATMs.
“We can literally have stores within a half-mile of one another,” Murphy said.
The newest Wawa includes 20 gas pumps and plenty of parking, including a spot reserved to pump air into tires. About 60 people work there.
“We have the best employees in the world,” Marino said of all company personnel.
The grand opening ceremony featured free coffee and cake and a hoagie-building contest pitting the 2nd and 15th police districts against the fire department’s Engine 52.
Wawa donated a total of $1,000 to the holiday party fund for the police districts and another $1,000 to the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22 widows’ fund.
The police officers also won bragging rights, building 33 hoagies in three minutes. The firemen managed to make 27 hoagies.
Among those in attendance were the Wally Goose company mascot, City Councilman Jack Kelly (R-at large), Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce president Al Taubenberger and representatives of the Mayfair Business Association and Mayfair Community Development Corporation.
Kelly declared that Wawa has the best coffee in Philadelphia.
Taubenberger said Wawa has the cheapest gasoline prices — $3.15 for a gallon of regular unleaded — and filled up his Ford Edge before leaving.
The business leader credited Wawa for working with neighborhoods in various ways and being part of communities.
He also cited the company’s economic impact, from hiring temporary construction workers and permanent store workers to contracting out for landscapers and trash haulers.
“They create jobs for people in the community,” he said.
Mike “Scoats” Scotese, president of the Mayfair Business Association, described the store opening as “a win.”
“It’s a positive. It’s a lot better than a vacant lot,” he said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org