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January 13, 2023

Wawa plans to transform closed Center City store into a tech training hub

The former 19th and Market streets storefront also may serve as a space for startups to gather, CEO Christopher Gheysens said

When Wawa decided to close two of its Center City locations last fall, it sparked questions about the convenience chain's future in Philadelphia. 

On Friday, CEO Christopher Gheysens revealed that Wawa wants to turn one of those two sites into a technology hub that would bring startups together to provide tech solutions for the company, The Philadelphia Business Journal reported. The space, at 19th and Market Streets, also could provide tech training for Wawa employees, or for workers and students from other organizations.

"That is a great location, and hopefully a visible sign that tech is alive and well, and the ecosystem that we create around it for the Philly area is alive and well," Gheysens said at an economic outlook event held by the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia. "There's so much good technology happening here in many industries, so if we can try to give a little bit of energy and resources to the chamber to really get that message out, I think there's a lot of upsides."

The project is part of a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce aimed at boosting the technology industry in Philadelphia. About 30% of Wawa's overhead expenses is spent on technology, and the company has faced a regional shortage in talent, the Inquirer reported. 

In October, Wawa decided to close its stores at 12th and Market streets and 19th and Market streets, citing "continued safety and security challenges" as well as business factors that made it difficult to keep them open. The Delaware County-based company claimed that it had not ruled out Philadelphia from its future expansion plans despite closing five Center City stores since mid-2020. 

Wawa plans to double its footprint from about 900 stores to more than 1,800 locations by 2030. The company currently has stores in six states – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida, as well as Washington, D.C. 

Over the last year, Wawa has revealed plans to expand to Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina in 2024, followed by Tennessee in 2025. It will then turn its eyes toward Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.