Sheetz opens, gas prices fall

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 16, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — If you’ve noticed a steep decrease in local gas prices in the past two days, you can thank the arrival of Sheetz.
Popular in many parts of the country but relatively new in this area, Pennsylvania-based Sheetz opened Thursday on Jake Alexander Boulevard at Old Concord Road. District Manager Kelly Hostetler said she found the cheapest gas in Salisbury and then cut the price by a dime per gallon.
“We are at $3.39. The cheapest we saw yesterday was $3.49,” Hostetler said Friday.
Other businesses responded accordingly, and many gas stations were selling gas for $3.39 by Thursday evening.
Sheetz, a gas station and convenience store known for made-to-order sandwiches and a coffee bar, bases gas prices on several factors, Hostetler said.
Staying within state law, Sheetz considers cost, competition and capacity, she said.
If stores aren’t drawing enough customers, the company may cut prices, she said.
That wasn’t a problem for the new Sheetz location, where business was brisk Friday afternoon with every pump occupied, lines inside at the menu kiosks and a tanker truck filling underground tanks for the third time within 24 hours.
“From what I’ve seen so far, they’re booming,” said Troy McLamb, who hauls gas for Sheetz.
McLamb praised the company for treating employees well and offering “great benefits.”
Debra Fink tried the Sheetz menu kiosk for the first time Friday. Customers order food like salads, sandwiches and burritos on a touch screen menu. Five people were cooking and preparing food Friday afternoon, and diners sat both inside and outside the store at a variety of tables.
“It was fun and I enjoyed it,” Fink said. “It’s a very friendly place.”
Although Matt McBee of Concord had never heard of Sheetz, he filled his boat with gas before heading to a bass fishing tournament on High Rock Lake. Gas at Sheetz was 15 cents cheaper than at pumps in Concord, he said.
Ashley Parham of China Grove filled up her car at a pump next to McBee. She saw the new Sheetz while driving through Salisbury to have lunch with her husband, who works here.
“I’ve never heard of them, but if it’s going to stay this cheap, I will be back,” she said.
Paula Dibley practically leaped out of a car when she arrived at Sheetz from her job at nearby Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. A Pennsylvania native, Dibley said she grew up with Sheetz.
“We are pumped,” she said after arriving with co-workers for lunch.
The new store will be good for RCCC students and faculty because Sheetz offers healthy, fresh food, Dibley said. She also praised the customer service.
Bill Gill of Salisbury said he’d stopped at other Sheetz locations while traveling and pulled into the new location Friday to grab a cup of coffee.
“Their stores are clean, at least the ones I’ve been in,” Gill said.
Matthew Combs of Badin and his cousin, Roger Younts of Thomasville, stopped by on their lunch break. They work in Salisbury.
“It’s awesome,” Combs said. “This is the best thing ever for Salisbury.”
The two said they would probably become daily customers, either grabbing breakfast and coffee before work or supper afterward.
Odilon Organista stopped at Sheetz after eating lunch at Koontz Elementary with his kids, who alerted him to the news. They had noticed Sheetz was open while they rode the bus to school.
“I hear they sell good gas, and cheap too,” Organista said. “It’s good for everyone who needs to save money.”
With 42 employees, this is the first Sheetz in Rowan County and only the second in the 704 area code, according to the store finder on its website. Sheetz is looking to the South as the chain plans further expansion from its central Pennsylvania hub.
The Altoona-based company has 394 stores, with more than half in Pennsylvania. Six stores were scheduled to be added by August to get to 400, executive vice president Joe Sheetz said.
The chain has plans to hit the 500 mark in three years, with North Carolina and West Virginia the prime targets for expansion. In North Carolina alone, Sheetz hopes to build about 10 new stores a year.
“We really look forward to moving into new areas because we want to show them what customer service should be,” said Hostetler, who has been opening new Sheetz stores for nine years.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.