Wawa honors ‘Mare of Easttown’ with spicy cheesesteak and new store dedication

The convenience chain didn’t realize it provided inspiration for the Kate Winslet HBO series until the show aired.

Detective Christine Bleiler, who served as a model for the character Mare, made the first cheesesteak of the day

Detective Christine Bleiler, who served as a model for the character Mare, made the first cheesesteak of the day

Louis Platt / Billy Penn

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Wawa openings are often treated as celebratory events, but this one took on extra meaning, with a dedication of the day to HBO’s “Mare of Easttown.”

Hundreds lined up for the 8 a.m. ribbon cutting at the Upper Darby location on the Baltimore Pike, which marks the 920th stores in the Delco-based chain.

Along with the usual perks that come with a Wawa launch — free coffee, a “Hoagies for Heroes” competition with local police and fire department staff — this event also featured the introduction of a special “Mare of Easttown Spicy Cheesesteak.”

The sandwich, which sees cheddar cheese sauce over frizzled beef with a cherry pepper relish, is only available for the next week, through June 17. You can only get it at the 42 locations in Delaware County, where “Mare” takes place.

Louis Platt / Billy Penn

Wawa featured prominently in the series, with star Kate Winslet saying she visited the convenience store for inspiration, and carrying branded coffee cups in several episodes.

It all came as a surprise to the company, according to Wawa spokesperson Jen Wolf, who said this whole promotion came together in just a few weeks to organize the promotion with HBO since they weren’t aware of the shoutouts until the show aired.

The opening was timed to fall on “Delco Day” — on 6/10, like the area code — Upper Darby Mayor Barbarann Keffer told the crowd, which this year was also officially “Mare of Easttown Day.” Standing next to the Wally Goose mascot, Wawa Chief Operations Officer Cathy Pulos reminded the crowd of Mare’s coffee order in the show: “Two creamers and no sugar.”

The event also included special guests Detective Christine Bleiler, whom Winslet shadowed for her role in the show; actor Kassie Mundhenk, who plays the character Moira Ross; and Tom Ingelsby, the father of show writer/creator Brad Inglesby. The elder Ingelsby is also a Cardinal O’Hara and Villanova basketball legend who played in the NBA.

Detective Bleiler had the honor of ordering and making the first “Easttown” cheesesteak. She never imagined her career in law enforcement would lead to her being a steak jockey, she said, but she enjoyed it.

“It was a fun time,” Bleiler said. “I have kids, so I’m a professional sandwich maker.”

Louis Platt / Billy Penn

The gathered crowd seemed excited about all parts of the day: the new Wawa, the attention brought to their area by “Mare of Easttown,” and the spicy cheesesteak.

Upper Darby resident Robin Link, who said she liked spotting locations she recognized in the show, brought her two grandchildren along, since they live nearby and never attended a Wawa opening before.

Link hadn’t tried the “Easttown” cheesesteak yet, but said she was looking forward to it. She normally adds ketchup, but was fine with the spicy relish swap.

“It looks really good,” Link said. “The lady who tried it said it wasn’t real hot. It just has a nice little kick to it.”

Wawa also made a $10,000 donation to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s “Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds” program, in accordance with the show’s commitment to raising awareness about mental health.

Louis Platt / Billy Penn

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