NEWARK — The neighbors may not have wanted the Sheetz gas station, convenience store and restaurant, but the crowd that swarmed the business for Tuesday’s grand opening seemed fine with the Newark location.
Sheetz opened its 13th central Ohio location and 645th in six states at 815 North 21st St., on the corner of North 21st and Moull streets, attracting hundreds of customers with free gift card drawings, one for $2,500.
The development includes a 6,077-square foot brick and stone building for the convenience store and restaurant, indoor and outdoor seating, and a fuel canopy for eight pumps.
Ralph Westfall, a Newark resident who attended the opening, said, “I think it’s pretty nice. I think it’ll do real well. It’s easy to get in and out. I think the location is all right. They’ve got plenty of room. Shouldn’t bother anybody.”
Newark resident Angie Keeler said, “I think it’s exciting, a beautiful store. I think it’s going to draw people in. It’s nice to have a gas discount offering this month. We go to the ones in Columbus.”
More than 100 customers lined up outside Licking County’s first Sheetz store in sub-freezing temperatures for a chance to win a gift card. The closest Sheetz store to Newark is in New Albany, 19 miles away. The company also has stores in Reynoldsburg, Zanesville, Columbus, Groveport, Obetz, Delaware, Hilliard and Circleville.
Chrissy Kaufman, of Newark, said, “I’m excited for it. We’ve never had a Sheetz around here. I’ve never been to one. I have the day off, spring break from school. I can win some free gas.”
Four homes on North 21st Street were demolished to make way for Sheetz, including a house remodeled 14 years ago for the offices of Northpointe Ohio Architecture. The four houses had previously been rezoned to general business district, so no change in zoning was needed.
Residents of Moull Street spoke out against the development, citing traffic and safety concerns.
Sheetz District Manager Jim Williams said a soft opening of three-hour segments on Friday and Saturday went very well.
“We love being in this type of location, not far from the highway, but being able to serve the area,” Williams said. “It’s very important. We’re going to show we’re a good neighbor. Obviously, there is concern with a new business and a lot of traffic. I understand the concerns, but we’re going to prove we’re a good neighbor.”
The police department had concerns with left turns onto northbound North 21st Street and traffic congestion from the development. The city and business agreed to roadway improvements and relocation of the traffic signal support, sidewalk and curb along the south side of Moull Street, allowing for a left turn lane eastbound on Moull Street and a better right turn radius southbound onto North 21st Street.
Sheetz spokesman Nick Ruffner said the community response was impressive.
“We’re really excited to be here,” Ruffner said. “We have a great turnout here. We’re a community-minded company. We’re committed to working with the community every time we embark on a store project.”
The store did not have any difficulty hiring the 45 to 50 employees it needed for the store, Williams said, despite the nationwide worker shortage.
“There’s always challenges, but it wasn’t difficult.,” Williams said of the hiring process. “A lot of people are interested in coming to Sheetz. We met a lot of great people.”
Williams said some people had preferences for work times, but the company is able to satisfy those requests because of the flexibility provided by being open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sheetz pays store team members a starting salary of $15 a hour, Williams said. The company pays supervisors $18 an hour and assistant managers $21 an hour. And those who work the third shift of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. receive an extra $1.50 per hour. The store is open every holiday, including Christmas.
Williams said Sheetz plans a second Licking County location in Heath, and there could be others.
Sheetz is a family-owned and operated business, headquartered in Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1952 as a deli and dairy to get quick food, then added fuel two decades later.