Responding to a rash of robberies at a popular WaWa Food Markets in Savage, store officials announced yesterday they would close the mini-market for good late last night.
The news distressed a number of residents, who say there isn't another convenience store nearby. "I don't think this is good at all for our community," said William B. Waff, president of the Savage Community Association and a longtime resident.
Over a five-month period this year, the store, in the 9000 block of Baltimore St. in the historic section of Savage, has been robbed five times, with bandits usually making off with several hundred dollars, police said.
The crimes prompted police to heighten security throughout the area. It also forced store officials to close the 24-hour store between midnight and 5 a.m. days after a man walked in during the early hours of Sept. 6, pulled a gun and fled with an undisclosed amount of money and two cartons of cigarettes, police said.
"The decision [to close] is in response to several recent incidents at the store, as well a need to replace our older stores with those reflecting our new format," said Lori Bruce, a company spokeswoman, in a written statement released to The Sun yesterday.
Bruce said older stores are routinely closed and new ones built. "Over the years, our store design and product offering has changed," she said.
"Our sites today are larger and designed to support gasoline operations. While we are excited about our future plans for growth and expansion, we unfortunately must occasionally close our older stores to make these plans a reality," Bruce said, adding that plans are under way to find additional sites along the U.S. 1 corridor.
News of the closing spread quickly through the town of 2,800.
Many residents recalled shopping at the convenience store long before the Weis supermarket was built a mile away on U.S. 1.
"Some of us still prefer to buy our milk from WaWa than from Weis," said Waff. "A lot of people would go there in the morning to get a cup of coffee. In the mornings, the store was always busy."
Waff, like others, said he is concerned about a recent wave of robberies and the shooting of two 17-year-old boys two blocks from the store. Waff said that he supported store officials' decision to restrict the hours of operation, but didn't believe that the store should be closed.
Bruce Smalley, who lives in North Laurel, was also saddened to learn of the closing.
"I've been coming here for at least eight years, to and from work," Smalley said, as he walked outside the convenience store yesterday afternoon with a cup of coffee and a pastry. "Now, I've got to find another place to get my coffee and afternoon snack before I head home."
Not everyone was upset.
Long before the WaWa was built about 16 years ago, a small store called POPS on Baltimore Street catered to the locals.
"We've already gotten more business," said Jake Croston, the owner, referring to the imminent WaWa closing. "We'll have to see what happens in the future."
Pub Date: 9/24/99