Dystopian Wawa Has Come for Us All


Top: Wawa in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 2020. Bottom: Remodeled Wawa in Philadelphia in 2023. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Aaron F. Stone/Flickr and Nadira Goffe.

From Slate: Walking into your favorite fast-food or fast-casual spot only to find that it has been given a futuristic face-lift has sadly become a common experience. Chances are you’ve noticed it: Almost every franchise that is still christening new stores now designs them to look like a cross between a New Age-y mobile-order pickup vector and a bare-bones modern apothecary, stripped of everything except neat rows of locked-up merchandise. Writer Kyle Chayka dubbed this design intention “AirSpace” for the Verge in 2016, describing the process of digital platforms making aesthetics globally accessible, resulting in every local artisanal coffee shop appearing like any other of its kind across the country. A similar kind of homogenization has taken hold in retail—earlier this year, Grub Street coined the term “shoppy shops” to describe the small businesses that all look the same and sell the same expensive, trendy brands of consumer packaged goods in every major city. Even Taco Bell isn’t safe from these so-called upgrades; it always feels disappointing when you pass a Taco Bell that traded in its nod to “Mexican authenticity”—terracotta red and golden yellow colors, with that iconic roof and arch—for a sterile purple and gray on perfectly rectangular buildings, now outfitted with less dining space in favor of hydraulic lifts to serve more drive-thu patrons.

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Demolition begins on historic Constan Carwash location


From News19: COLUMBIA, S.C. — Demolition has begun on a storied business in Columbia, credited with assisting in the development of the Riverbanks Zoo.

If you’ve driven down Gervais Street in the last seven decades, you’ve no doubt seen or maybe even stopped by the Constan Carwash shop.

On Friday, an excavator began taking down the walls of the storied business.

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Tom’s Diner Honored by Historic Denver, Even as Restaurant Space Up for Lease


Tom’s Diner took over a former White Spot. Denver Public Library

From Westword: Historic Denver will celebrate several victories at the 53rd annual Gala & Awards Dinner tonight, November 2, honoring five past-preserving projects and three people dedicated to advocating for this city’s historic places.

Among the winners is a combined Remix Award for the GBX Group and Tom’s Diner, which worked together on a win-win solution for 601 East Colfax Avenue.

The building there got its start in 1967 as a link in the now-defunct local White Spot chain; it’s a classic example of the California coffee-shop design known as Googie. By the time Tom Messina took it over in 1999, it had already left the White Spot group and become the Sun Diner; he turned it into Tom’s Diner, a 24/7 joint that quickly became a mainstay for night owls. In 2003, Messina bought the building for $800,000. Fourteen years later, when he was getting ready to retire, he put it on the market for $4.8 million; a developer was interested in developing apartments on the property — which would have been last call for Tom’s.

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Milt’s no more: Historic neon sign heading to Kern County Museum


From KGET: BAKERSFIELD, Calif.  — The historic neon sign over the popular coffee shop once known as Milt’s came down on Tuesday morning, and has officially begun its journey to the Kern County Museum.

“Milt’s Coffee Shop”, first opened in 1964, was sold a year ago to the owner of Old River Grill.

With the addition of Old River Grill signage, the restaurant’s name has officially changed. The new owner, with the permission from the original family, donated the old Milt’s sign to the museum for its Neon Plaza.

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Historic theater worth the visit in Colorado mountain town


RiverNorthPhotography (iStock)

From OutThereColorado: When thinking of historical buildings found in Colorado, neon-lit towers, live performances, and American diner-style food might not be what comes to mind. But that’s exactly what the Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park has to offer.

Estes Park is home to America’s oldest single-house motion picture theatre that is still operating today, with The Historic Park Theatre placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

J.L. Jackson began construction of the theatre in 1913, which was then completed by C.H. Bond. Fred Jackson operated the theatre until 1922 before selling it to Ralph Gwynn, who operated it until his death. Gwynn added the iconic “Tower of Love” to the property – an 80-foot-tall neon-outlined landmark tower and lobby, which stands out in the small mountain town of Estes Park.

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Iconic Native American statue finds new home on Route 66 in Oklahoma


The Native American statue that stood along Route 2 for decades in Charlemont at its new home outside the Western Motel in Oklahoma. Contributed/Beth Hilburn

From the Greenfield Recorder: The 60-foot fiberglass Native American statue that stood for decades in front of Charlemont’s Native and Himalayan Views souvenir shop has a new home.

After months of restoration, Hi-Way Cafe and Western Motel owner Beth Hilburn installed the statue, known locally at the “Big Indian,” outside of their motel, located on historic U.S. Route 66 in Vinita, Oklahoma.

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