In 1952, Bob Sheetz purchased an Altoona, Pa., dairy store, one of five retail operations owned by his father. His second store opened its doors in 1963 and the third opened five years later. By 1969, Bob’s brother Steve was serving as general manager, and the pair decided to open one store each year through 1972, which would give them a total of seven. But that growth rate was accelerated and by the designated deadline the Sheetz brothers had 14 convenience stores. A year later, the company added self-serve gasoline pumps to the stores.
By the early ‘80s, Sheetz was 100 stores strong, and in 1984, Bob retired, handing leadership of the growing company to Steve. Sheetz was honored as CSD’s Chain of the Year in 1994, during a decade of rapid expansion and creative product launches.
Stan Sheetz was working in his family’s stores by the time he was eight, sweeping floors and emptying the trash, and he has seen a multitude of changes between 1994 and 2009. “In 1994, we had about 190 stores, and today we have 364,” said Sheetz, president and CEO of the company. “Of course, we no longer use a cash register. It’s all scanning and POS and touchscreen food ordering. And foodservice has changed a lot. We now have deep fryers in all our stores.”
The chain also offers a proprietary line of Sheetz coffees. “It used to be just coffee,” Sheetz said. “Then they came out with the powders, and Starbucks introduced everyone to fancy drinks. That is a lot of changes in a short amount of time.”
Today, Sheetz operates stores in Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. “We deliver our own gasoline with our fleet of tanker trucks,” Sheetz said. “We started with three trucks in 1991, and we now have 80.”
The company built its own distribution center in 2001 and has 50 trucks for grocery delivery. The Sheetz kitchen was constructed in 2008, complete with a team of chefs responsible for new product development. A fleet of 80 trucks makes daily fresh food deliveries to the company’s stores 365 days a year. This system allows customers to purchase made-to-order sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, grilled panini sandwiches, breakfast items, salads and chili.
One thing that hasn’t changed since 1994, Sheetz said, is the attitude of employees who serve the public. “I hope they’re the same friendly crowd we had at the time,” he said. “Now the customer has changed. We’ve been a 24-hour operation since 1980, but we’ve become even more of an around-the-clock business. It’s nonstop.”
The food program is branded under the company’s signature Made-To-Order (MTO) brand. It also has made good use of the Z at the end of the Sheetz name and adapted it to various marketing efforts. There is the Sheetz reloadable gift card known as The “Z” card, the Sheetz breakfast sandwich dubbed the Shmuffinz, Shweetz bakery products and the company’s popular Nachoz.
In 2004, Sheetz opened the world’s first “Convenience Restaurant” in Altoona and later that year began offering the Sheetz MasterCard PayPass with RFID technology built into the card, a first for the industry.
Despite the new technology, new product introductions, construction and expansion, there is no slowing down in sight. “When you’re through with change, you’re through,” Sheetz said.