So… I get a few different reactions when I post something about Sheetz. And… it’s funny… but… I guess it bears explaining.
Technically, Sheetz is a convenience store and gas station (although, once upon a time, not all Sheetz’s had gas). Anyone with a burning desire to know the history or get a feel for what Sheetz literally is, you can find it here. It started out in central Pennsylvania in the 50s and 60s and took it’s time to grow. It took its own sweet time making it to western PA where I was introduced to it.
The first Sheetz I can actually remember remembering took the place of the hospital where I was born when that fine old structure was torn down. I can’t actually remember going into that store more than a hand full of times. Of course, at the time I was kind of young and really didn’t care a whole awful lot.
Over the years, local convenience stores have come and gone. Whole chains of convenience stores have come and gone. As we have traveled and moved, the range of convenience store experiences have broadened and expanded and they have almost become ubiquitous. But Sheetz has remained Sheetz.
Sheetz was coffee and cigarettes (back when he was smoking), hot dogs (2 for a dollar) and a candy bar or two.
When I was working on the building crew that built the horse barn and show rings in Crooked Creek Park, Sheetz was three creams and three sugars in a red and white foam cup around the morning bonfire of brush that we had cleared the day before. It was def dogs (I have no idea WHY they were called def dogs… ) at lunch and was well on its way to becoming a fixture in our lives.
Def dogs are hot dogs with EVERYTHING (at the time everything they offered) on them. Sauerkraut and relish, onions and ketchup and mustard, and nacho cheese and chili. You almost HAD to eat them with a fork they were so messy. I will occasionally (for nostalgia sake) still eat one of them fixed up that way.
Sheetz became the place I stopped on the way to school when I started college. I would stop to fill my Stanley thermos with coffee for $2 and I would have hot coffee for the whole day. That thermos and Sheetz coffee saw me through my career at Pitt and on into starting work at US Steel.
Sheetz became a thing.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like Sheetz EVER had “convenience store” coffee. I’ll admit it wasn’t (then) Florence espresso or even as fancy as Dunkin Donuts coffee is now, but it was always really good coffee. The coffee station was, usually, right as you walked in the doors. I think it was so that the cashiers could keep an eye on the level of coffee in the pots and make a fresh one as soon as they started to empty. There was always fresh coffee, even in the middle of the night. And then, as now, you could get free coffee on Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Day. It has always been a Sheetz thing.
When I got transferred to Mt Iron MN for doing a good job at work, Sheetz was the first thing I missed. I learned that convenience store coffee can very much be convenience store coffee and hot dogs can be extremely nasty. Every time we made a trip back home, Sheetz was always a stop we made.
And Sheetz grew. It grew in size and scope and popularity.
As the years passed, and we moved to Texas, the trips home became less frequent. The 26 hour drive got to be a bit long. But when we did make the drive, it was always awesome to see the first Sheetz store. When we first started to see them on the interstate in Ohio, it became the mile post where we would stop and get hot dogs (no matter the time of day or night) and a couple cups of coffee to tide me over until we got the whole way ‘home’. Sheetz has grown with my family as my family has grown with Sheetz.
Sheetz still has really good coffee, but now they also have a wide variety of coffees. You can actually get a good solid latte and an espresso, you can get steamers (which make incredibly yummy creamer if you don’t just like flavored steamed milk) and mochas, cold and iced and frozen. And still, they are Sheetz.
I know that it would come as a surprise to a few, and no shock at all to a few others; when I interviewed at my current position, and it became a real possibility that I might actually land the job, I looked to see if there were any Sheetz in the area. While I was living in Texas there were several things that I missed. I missed October leaves, I missed normal seasons and temperatures, and I missed Sheetz. Low and behold, Sheetz had made its way to the Cleveland area and there are, indeed, Sheetz stores sprinkled around the area. It was a sign! 🙂
From where I live, I can walk to two different Sheetz stores. There are, of course, other convenience stores in the area and there are even other ones where I will stop and get a perfectly respectful cup of coffee (thank you Giant Eagle for adding these ‘other’ stores to YOUR offerings) but, if given the choice, I will still stop and get coffee at Sheetz. Sometimes now I get donuts, or pizza, and their sliders are really yummy too. AND they have pickled eggs. Bear kind of shakes his head that I will spend a buck and a half on two pickled eggs but it is kind of becoming a new thing too.
I know it is weird. And I know it is a “thing”, because over the years I have come to recognize when a thing is a thing and that there is nothing I can do about it. But it is kind of a nice “thing” and it’s one that I’m going to keep.
If you fill your cup 1/3 of the way with the ‘instant’ peppermint mocha from the machine next to the coffee pots, then fill the rest with Sumatra or French Roast, the result is a very yummy drink where the instant is the creamer. I’ve seen others doing this too, so I know that it is also becoming a them thing too.
It was a surprise when I filled my cup, yesterday, on my way to work and found that the 69 cent refill had gone up at the first of the year to 89 cents. I had to grin at myself though when I also realized that the price had been 69 cents for a refill for just about ever. And recently there was a big to-do about the fact that Sheetz is raising salaries for all of its workers… so I guess I can’t kvetch too much about the extra 20 cents.
In reading this, I guess I can kind of explain why Sheetz is something that is a thing with me, but, too, it is hard to explain the feeling of home that can be encompassed in something so inane but so missed when it is missing.
Author: April Wells
Published: January 23, 2016