‘The Sheetz Story’: Now Available in Paperback

Book chronicles the ups and downs of well-known convenience store chain

New book chronicles the ups and downs of Sheetz convenience store chain

ALTOONA, Pa. -- A new book tracing the history of the Sheetz convenience store chain is now available in bookstores and on Amazon.

"Made to Order: The Sheetz Story" by Kenneth Womack is the product of numerous interviews with key Sheetz family members, including company founder Bob Sheetz and longtime company president Steve Sheetz. The book traces the history of Sheetz Inc., a regional convenience retailer that battled the odds and cemented its name among the ranks of America’s most successful private companies.

From its humble dairy store origins in Altoona, Pa., Sheetz became a convenience store giant, amassing more than 450 locations across six states and creating numerous marketing and retail innovations along the way.

"We'd been talking at Sheetz for a while about doing a book," Steve Sheetz, who joined his older brother's fledgling company part time in 1960 and still serves as chairman of the Sheetz Family Council, told the Altoona Mirror. "None of us are getting any younger, and while Bob and my memories are still there, we thought it'd be good to do. It's only a matter of getting someone to sit down and force us to do it."

In all, Womack says he interviewed about 25 people who were part of the Sheetz story.

The book is blunt about the company's struggles, including a down period in the 1980s that led to a more customer-friendly business plan and the company's struggle with a breakout of salmonella among its locations in 2004, according to the newspaper. In the latter case, the Sheetz family came out--against the wishes of their lawyers and public relations people--and admitted that the salmonella outbreak almost certainly came from Sheetz stores.

Despite the hit in business--food sales fell by 40%--customers stayed loyal in other areas of the store and the food business eventually recovered.

Steve Sheetz is happy with how "Made to Order" came out, but says the story is hardly over.

"Today, you kind of wish your book was online, because every day things are changing," he said. "We're adding people, we're adding stores, we started a Sheetz Family Council.

"The book is done, so you kind of look at it like, 'OK, that's the last 60 years, but how are we going to capture what's going on from here?' "

"Made to Order: The Sheetz Story" is available in bookstores, at Sheetz stores and on e-readers.

Womack, a professor of English and integrative arts at Penn State Altoona, is the author of three novels: "John Doe No. 2 and the Dreamland Motel" (2010), "The Restaurant at the End of the World" (2012) and "Playing the Angel" (2013). He also is the author or editor of numerous works of nonfiction, including "Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles" (2007) and "The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles" (2009).