Hometown convenience retailer Wawa will open its first store featuring interior bar stools and a counter for dining at Broad and Walnut Streets this year.

At a Wawa Day celebration Thursday, with Mayor Nutter on hand, the company announced plans for a 5,300- to 5,500-square-foot "flagship store" at the former Robinson's Luggage location at one of Center City's busiest intersections.

Construction will begin next month and be completed by the end of the year, said spokeswoman Lori Bruce.

The new store will have 10 stools and a counter along the perimeter windows, but inside dining is not the wave of Wawa's future, said Mary-Rose Hannum, director of store design.

"This will be the first time we try this," Hannum said. "We'd like to get the customers' feedback and their vote on how we should do this moving forward."

Wawa stores in Florida and several mid-Atlantic states have outside seating, but nothing indoors.

"Our business model is really about serving people who are on the go," Bruce said. "This extends that. This gives people another option, to take a moment, be able to quickly consume something."

Bruce said that the stools and counter will not be a "sit-down experience for a long period of time, but we hope it will fulfill a need."

The space will be "slightly larger" than traditional Wawa stores, but not as large as some that sell gasoline. In addition to indoor seating, the new store will feature many "beautiful design aspects," Bruce said.

Last year, during the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Wawa stores, Nutter declared that April 16 would be known as Wawa Day.

Continuing that celebration, Nutter poured the first cup of coffee at the Wawa at 17th and Arch Streets. The company gave out 1.5 million cups of free coffee to customers Thursday.

Wawa began as a dairy and opened its first store April 16, 1964, in Folsom, Delaware County. It has grown to a six-state retail enterprise with made-to-order sandwiches, hot meals, coffee, snacks, and more.

lloyd@phillynews.com

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