If it wasn’t the riot students promised, the last hour before the College Park Wawa closed Sunday night still sent off the beloved landmark of late-night revelry the way so many remembered it.
Herds gathered in the back aisles, screaming and reminiscing. Students ran through the now-empty shelves and ravaged the last doughnuts, muffins and slushies without paying for them.
Any other Saturday night, an employee may have protested. But last night the store manager smiled as he offered perishable food for free and Wawa signs to any taker who could tear them off the walls. Senior Andrew Skobac walked off with a six foot wood-carved fountain drink sign.
Thirty minutes before the store closed, a student burst in yelling “Save Wawa” and waving a crumpled computer-paper sign with the same message in protest. More than 2,000 students joined the “SAVE WAWA” Facebook group and organized a sit-in that never materialized.
The clock in Wawa never struck 11 p.m. – a student had walked out with it about 20 minutes before – but when the time finally came for the store to close its doors one last time, most students lingered, laughing in the doorway, one drinking a slushie from a snatched coffee pot in the back. Workers held the door and said good-bye, taking time to pose for one last picture.
It was the first night in days when customers’ chatter overwhelmed the doo-wop ’50s music that once played in the background. After the store ceased taking shipments 10 days before, the shelves became barren and what was once an alcohol-free after-party hot spot languished. Before the final closing blowout, employees were left smiling at memories of a packed store.
“It’s wonderful,” one employee said. “I love it. I love the kids. They’re all so happy.”
She asked not to be named in case she sought another job with the company, but many of the employees at the store that become synonymous for the post-party munchies in College Park were not as sentimental.
“I’m glad to be rid of the place,” said 23-year-old employee Andrew Godby, who worked his last shift Saturday night. “I’m going to miss it and all, but I’m actually happy I’m done. I’ve been wanting to get away from that place for a while.”
Godby and his twin brother Adam have worked at the Wawa for more than two years. They have become accustomed to facing drunken heckles and long lines as they would make about 70 sandwiches each on a typical weekend.
Most of these visitors didn’t have names, just faces, orders and stories. The Terps linebacker always ordered the Classic BLT, said Adam, reeling his condiments from memory, “extra bacon, swiss cheese, buffalo blue sauce, sometimes onions and sweet peppers.” The fraternity boy, who once gloated about taking 30 shots in one night, only bought macaroni and cheese.
Despite the complaints they received and messes some customers would leave, the brothers both agreed the clientele at the College Park Wawa was unique among the Pennsylvania chain’s 500 stores.
“They complained constantly, but they did it night after night,” Adam said. “They were loyal to a point that I didn’t understand.”