Wawa Opens in Fairfax, Sparking Reflection of the County’s Past

Kara Lynch, News Editor

The installation of a Wawa at 9700 Fairfax Blvd was approved by Fairfax’s City Council by vote, on January 14, 2020.

Photo by Zainab Rentia.

The Wawa company is a chain of large gas stations and convenience stores. As a corporately-owned business Wawa has about 900 stores world wide (as of 2020).

Although many citizens are excited for the Wawa, a lot are against the new build near P.J. Skidoos on Routes 50/29. People are concerned about the strong competition Wawa will be for locally-owned businesses. At the City Council Public Hearing last year, Chase Beaulieu, who co-owns the Jermantown Shell Station, spoke on behalf of his and his father’s business. 

Our livelihood depends on selling gas and snacks, and Wawa will affect thousands of people who’ll lose their jobs because of it,” said Beaulieu at the public hearing. 

The 92 reviews on Yelp of the Jermantown Shell Station average four and half stars. The reviews are filled with happy customers who describe the staff as “friendly,” “honest,” and “good people.” As some of the reviews highlighted, the Jermantown Shell Station is also known for its festive holiday decorations. 

Among the concerns about competition, other points were raised at last January’s meeting. Two are the increase in traffic at Fairfax Circle and the opinion that Fairfax already has enough gas stations. But amid all the controversy, others believe Wawa has benefits. 

The architecture of the building will be “state-of-the-art” as Wawa’s representative, attorney Robert Brant, said. He also mentioned at the council meeting that the Wawa is, “estimated to bring as much as $347,000 additional, net revenue to the City annually.” 

With 12 gas pumps in total, the 6,049 square-foot convenience store is expected to have about 1,280 customers visit per day. The project has already begun construction and is estimated to be completed in late spring (six to nine months).    

A telephone exchange set up in Fairfax in the 1880s. Photo from Fairfax County in Virginia: A Pictorial History.

Recently, Fairfax has grown about 1.2 percent annually, and continues to expand. After World War II families who worked in D.C., wanted the suburbia feel while also being close to their jobs. Fairfax, once a land covered in dairy farms, soon developed into a lively residential area.  

“With the growth in the 50s, the Fairfax County School Board actually once said they were really proud [of their growth progress] and were ‘building a classroom a day,’” says Jim Wyckoff who was the Executive Director of Fairfax County Planning Commission (FCPC) for 30 years. “That says a lot about how fast Fairfax County was growing.” Fairfax’s annual growth rate grew 179.03 percent from 1950 to 1960. 

In 1974 Fairfax County created the group PLUS (planning land use system). Before PLUS, planning was, as Wyckoff describes, “haphazardous.” Yet with the PLUS system plans were more efficient and organized. During the time of the growth in Fairfax County, Wyckoff and his colleagues would work 70-hour weeks and have 2:00 a.m. meetings, “it was an unbelievable type of thing.” This changed the face of planning in Fairfax.

Fairfax Board of Supervisors elected in 1984. Photo from Fairfax County in Virginia: A Pictorial History.

The Virginia Code required planning commissions to review their comprehensive plan every five years. Yet the Fairfax County commission reviewed their comprehensive plan every year. “It was a massive undertaking,” recalls Wyckoff. 

Another unique characteristic of the FCPC was the way they brought themselves to the community rather than the community coming to them. “We started to change the philosophy by going into the community. We would have our meetings in local places like schools or restaurants,” says Wyckoff. This “philosophy” gave Fairfax citizens a voice in the construction and development of their communities. The historical place of Fairfax has advanced into a sizable town through years of planning and organizing.