The interior of a Sheetz in Altoona, Pa.

The closure of two Wawa stores in Center City last month raised the question of what might take their place. One popular suggestion: Sheetz.

When Wawa announced the shutdowns in October, a company statement said it “hope[s] to repurpose these two locations to further benefit Philadelphia.” Sounds nice; what it means is unclear. So Billy Penn asked what Philadelphians thought should go into those two retail spaces instead.

Some people suggested community services, such as youth-focused recreation spots, or resource centers for people experiencing homelessness or mental health issues. A few recommended public bathrooms.

Among the 150-plus responses, Sheetz was the business most commonly mentioned.

“Sheetz!” wrote Jordan, a 38-year-old South Philly resident. “Wawa has made it clear that it wants no part of Philly anymore. Maybe it is time to start a new tradition.”

“Wawa was the perfect tenant for 12th and Market. A store with a similar business model should replace it,” said a 68-year-old from Chestnut Hill.

“Sheetz. Give Wawa the finger,” echoed Instagram user @amtlphilly, with only slightly less tact.

The two brands have been considered rivals for decades. They make light of it, but there are some differences. The Western Pa. edition is known for its 24-hour service and made-to-order comfort food — think mac-and-cheese bites and fried oreos — alongside more standard fare like 2-for-$1 hot dogs and subz (aka. hoagies for those who speak Philly).

Other convenience chains that garnered mentions were 7-Eleven (Philly already has a lot of them) and Royal Farms, a Maryland-born outfit that specializes in fried chicken.

A lot of readers seemed unconcerned with the brand, suggesting various coffee shops or fast food joints. Others simply refused to offer an alternative. The most popular business idea besides Sheetz was just to reopen the Wawas.

Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

The unofficial survey’s most popular answer overall was essentially tongue-in-cheek commentary on the city’s gun violence crisis. Outpacing Sheetz and all other suggestions: police stations.

As of this writing, the storefronts remain shuttered. No new business licenses have yet been filed for the addresses, which are both in relatively high-end office buildings,  and the companies that manage those properties did not respond to Billy Penn’s requests for comment.

The closures, said Philly real estate broker Jacob Cooper, could be a “wake-up call for city government to make a more concerted effort to make these businesses that chose to invest here feel safe and make them feel supported.”

But Mayor Jim Kenney didn’t seem to see it that way, telling reporters last month that “I don’t think it’s a bad omen at all.”

Wawa has closed three other Center City locations since summer 2020, and none appear to have yet attracted a new business tenant.

Most popular ideas to replace Wawa, as suggested by Billy Penn’s audience

  1. Sheetz
  2. Wawa (yeah, again)
  3. Community Center
  4. 7-Eleven
  5. Coffee shop (any coffee shop)
  6. Royal Farms