The Wa at 140 University Place closed its doors for the last time in November, leaving behind four decades of student memories of coffee, hoagies, snacks — and something more.
“Wawa has provided me with opportunities for nourishment (of sorts) and social engagement (kind of), and has taken care of me through my school career,” Margaret Spencer ’16 wrote in the Nassau Weekly. “I like to think that the Wawa is a judgment-free oasis at Princeton, an oasis that deals in coffee, cigarettes, and like any good friend is there 24 hours a day to remind me that there’s a world out there bigger than mine.”
To make way for construction of the University’s new arts complex, the Wawa has been replaced by an updated Wawa with double the floor space a few hundred feet down Alexander Street. But students voiced a special attachment to the old store, with its black, orange, and white stained-glass window emblazoned with the University and Wawa seals above the inside doors, and dozens of bright orange Princeton class banners lining the walls.
With crumpled and overlapping advertisements and posters plastered on the walls bordering the entrance, the old Wa had “character,” said Jonathan Frankle ’14, a first-year computer science master’s student. Compared to other University facilities, Frankle added, the old Wawa was “much less sterile.”
Going to the Wa felt “like you’re getting off campus a little bit” without the inconvenience of making the trek to Nassau Street, said Sam Maron ’17.
Then there’s the food — not gourmet, perhaps, but with its practical advantages. “At the U-Store, there’s only frozen food that you have to microwave,” said Jeff Yan ’16. “But at the Wa, they actually make it on the spot.”
Beyond the food and the décor, there was something intangible that tied generations of students to their Wa, as in this post on the Yelp website:
“Wawa by the Dinky: You are the light and the way. How many nights did I wander your fluorescent aisles seeking the perfect munchie? How often did your expert hoagie-makers save me from indignity after sleeping through lunch? How many of your 20-ounce coffees did I swallow in a vain attempt to understand econometrics?”
It’s too early to tell if the same emotions will transfer to the new location. But students were glad the move caused no disruption to their favorite Wa routines: The minute the old store turned off its lights, the new one opened its doors.