By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Wawa was thinking big, but will stay small.
The tiny Wawa store on Landis Avenue in the heart of downtown Sea Isle City will not be expanding after all.
Wawa filed an application with Sea Isle’s Planning Board in 2019 for a 1,500-square-foot expansion to increase the store’s total size to nearly 4,500 square feet.
The outdated, nondescript exterior was supposed to be given a contemporary facelift highlighted by a big Wawa sign perched over the front entrance overlooking Landis Avenue, an architectural rendering showed then.
However, Wawa has ditched those more elaborate plans in favor of a renovation of the store that includes remodeling the interior, making cosmetic changes to the exterior and adding a new sign, according to the construction permit issued by the city in March.
Work is underway on the project. Construction cones and yellow caution tape block off part of the front of the store.
Wawa’s public relations department did not return emails seeking comment on why the company scaled down the project. Stephen Nehmad, an attorney who represented Wawa before the planning board, declined to comment.
In an era of the big, modern Super Wawa stores that include gas stations, the Sea Isle store at the corner of 38th Street and Landis Avenue is an anachronism.
Built 35 years ago, the quaint throwback serves as a reminder of what it was like to shop at Wawa in the 1980s.
The small store sits on property that totals just 11,000 square feet, according to the planning board application. In comparison, an acre of land is 43,560 square feet.
Wawa began talking to the planning board in 2018 about possibly expanding the store, then backed off for a while before filing a formal application for the project in 2019. The construction permit issued in March, though, shows that the store will be renovated instead of expanded.
In addition to being known for its freshly made hoagies and gourmet coffee, Wawa has developed a reputation for giving back to the community in Sea Isle.
Wawa donated $8,246 in 2019 to purchase body armor vests and other protective gear for Sea Isle’s police officers.
“They’re a tremendous corporate partner. They never say no,” Police Chief Tom McQuillen said of Wawa in 2019 during a ceremony to accept the donation for the vests.
On Friday, the police department posted a message on its Facebook page congratulating Wawa on its 57th anniversary and for its milestone of donating $100 million to local communities through The Wawa Foundation since its inception in 2014.
“We are proud of our partnership with the Wawa Corporation over the past several years, and look forward to working with them again in the future,” the department said on Facebook.