Best gas station food? Survey says it’s Wawa

Wawa beats out other gas stations nationwide for having the best food, in a new survey from Payless Power.

The suburban Philadelphia-based convenience store chain, which is expanding farther into central Pennsylvania as well as other states, was the top choice in this category among 1,011 Americans asked about their gas station preferences.

Costco and Sheetz, which also have a presence in the region, did well, too.

Some other highlights from the survey:

· Overall, Costco was No. 1, Sam’s Club No. 3, Wawa No. 4 and Sheetz No. 5 in the ranking of America’s best stops.

· Costco was the cleanest and cheapest gas station. Wawa was fourth cleanest.

· Wawa had the most spent on each visit on average, $84.46, and the shortest average time, 16 minutes.

· Sheetz and Costco ranked third and fourth, respectively, as having the best food.

Of the 57% men and 43% women surveyed, 10% were baby boomers, 22% were Gen X, 43% were millennials and 25% were Gen Z.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Sheetz offering discounted diesel to truck, car drivers

As the cost of fuel continues to impact both businesses and individual drivers, a Pennsylvania-based gas and convenience store chain is doing something about it. 

Sheetz has announced that it is decreasing the price it charges for diesel fuel by 50 cents per gallon at all of the 665 Mid-Atlantic locations that sell diesel. 

The chain said that it predicts the decrease will result in a savings of around $10 for mid-sized trucks, $12 for full-size trucks and $60 for semi-trailers. 

The discount begins Jan. 10 and continues through Jan. 31. 

The offer will include both auto diesel fuel and truck diesel fuel options.

Last September, Sheetz celebrated Truck Driver Appreciation Week by reducing diesel fuel prices to $4.49 a gallon for the entire month. Sheetz further showed its appreciation by offering truck drivers free meals in September.

During the offer, the chain said that the price displayed at the pump is the final purchase price and reflects the price rollback.

Sheetz to begin accepting cryptocurrency payments at select stores

Sheetz will begin accepting digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin and Dogecoin through digital currency payment company Flexa.

The Altoona-based restaurant and convenience chain announced on Thursday that it will be the first convenience store chain to accept bitcoin when it begins accepting payments through Flexa this summer.

When available, customers will be able to use a variety of cryptocurrencies to pay for items in select Sheetz’ convenience stores. Later in the year, Sheetz also intends to begin accepting Flexa payments at its fuel pumps.

Sheetz currently operates 622 stores in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland.

“…We are constantly innovating and exploring new offerings to truly give our customers what they want, when they want it, 24/7/365 — that includes accepting many forms of payment,” said Linda Smith, payments manager for Sheetz. “We’re very excited to be working with Flexa to roll out support for cryptocurrencies and other types of digital assets at our stores.”

Flexa, based in New York City, offers cryptocurrency payments through a number of apps including Gemini, BRD and Coin List. The company also enables Flexa in other company’s apps.

To enable Flexa’s instant authorization process for digital currency payments, Sheetz worked with its point-of-sale technology partner, NCR.

“With interest in digital currencies reaching all-time highs, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there are real, tangible benefits for the merchants who accept them—not only reduced fraud and cost savings, but also a better and more mobile customer experience,” said Trevor Filter, co-founder of Flexa.

Sheetz raises pay by $2/hour for all store employees

Sheetz, the Altoona-based restaurant and convenience chain announced a $2/hour wage increase for all of its 18,000 store employees which will go into effect on May 21, 2021.

Sheetz, which has close to 300 stores in Pennsylvania, and over 600 stores in total throughout the mid-Atlantic region, reports that the permanent increase equates to a $50 million annual investment.

In addition, Sheetz also announced an additional $1/hour wage increase from May 21, 2021 until September 23, 2021 for all store employees, a $12 million investment, according to Sheetz.

“To attract and retain top talent, we know we need to continue to invest in our employees,” said Travis Sheetz, president and COO of Sheetz. “That investment includes more than just competitive wages. We provide career growth opportunities and a clear path to promotion so life at Sheetz can be not just a job, but a career.”

Wegmans, Hilton, Target among Fortune’s 100 best big companies to work for

Wegmans, Hilton and Target are among a number of large corporations with Pennsylvania locations appearing on Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for.

This is the 23rd year the New York-based Fortune magazine has published the rankings, which are the result of a survey administered by Great Place to Work, a California-based workplace analytics firm.

Hilton, the Virginia-based national hotel chain, came in at number three with employees offered perks like job sharing, compressed work weeks, fully paid sabbaticals, sick days for part timers and student loan debt repayment.

Wegmans, the higher-end supermarket chain with stores throughout Pennsylvania, ranked number four, down one from number three last year. The New York-based company boasts sick days for part timers, compressed work weeks, and college tuition reimbursement. Wegmans also hired 1,656 new high school and college graduates last year.

National retail chain Target came in at number 14, also with sick days for part timers, subsidized child care and job sharing. Target was also one of the first major retailers to accelerate its minimum wage to $15, and currently has roughly 8,635 job openings nationwide.

Other businesses operating in Pennsylvania to make the top 100 list include Marriot at 15, Bank of America at 22, CarMax at 36, T-Mobile at 51, Burlington Stores at 69, Sheetz at 83 , and Farmers Insurance at 84.

California-based network and software company Cisco Systems ranked number one of top 100 places to work for 2021.

The full list can be found here.

Sheetz opening new convenience store in Berks County

The new Sheetz at 2298 Golden Key Road in New Smithville, Berks County. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


Berks County is getting a new Sheetz.

The Altoona-based convenience chain will officially open its new store in New Smithville Wednesday at 2298 Golden Key Road.

Sheetz currently operates 616 store locations across Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland, with all locations open 24/7, 365 days a year.

This new location offers Sheetz’s Made-to-Order (MTO) menu on its touch-screen order terminals where customers will be able to order any of Sheetz’s customized specialty drinks or food items.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the store will be observing the chain’s safety protocols.

Sheetz said it has established several safety measures which include encouraging social distancing throughout all of its locations, requiring all employees to wear masks, conducting employee wellness checks before every shift and has implemented enhanced routine daily cleaning procedures with a focus on high touch surfaces like door handles.

As part of its grand opening of the new store Sheetz said it will donate $2,500 to Helping Harvest, an organization which helps feed the hungry in Berks and Schuylkill Counties.

Sheetz will also donate $2,500 to the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania.

Sheetz hiring 3,000 employees company wide

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, Sheetz announced plans to hire an additional 3,000 employees company-wide.

“As an essential business, Sheetz has been committed to staying open to serve the needs of the community. We are grateful for the dedication of our employees who have continued to provide superior customer service during these challenging times,” Vice President of Human Resources Stephaine Doliveira said in a statement.

“In addition, we also want to provide employment opportunities for those who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 health crisis.”

The Altoona-based company is hoping to provide jobs for people who may have lost employment during the pandemic. Job opportunities will be available in several departments including food service, distribution, corporate departments and maintenance, according to the news release.

Employment opportunities include medical and dental insurance, 12-week full paid maternity leave, college tuition reimbursement, and 401(k) retirement plan options.

Those interested may apply online at sheetz.com.

The company operates over 600 stores throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Rutter’s, Turkey Hill rank among top convenience stores

Local businesses like Turkey Hill and Rutter’s were part of a list of the best convenient stores in the country along with other Pennsylvania staples like Sheetz and Wawa.

A number of Pennsylvania’s biggest convenient stores were part of a new list published by Food & Wine earlier this month.

York-based Rutter’s was given the tenth spot in the list of 22 stores. The website praised the local convenient store for its wide variety of menu items.

“Offering one of the most extensive menus of any entry on this list, we’ve seen everything from ribs to chicken wings to cannoli and cheesecake on offer; nobody ever goes away hungry.”

Turkey Hill in Lancaster earned the 15th spot on the list for its ice cream varieties and bottled drinks. The company’s Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia also earned a mention from Food & Wine.

Sheetz and Wawa were listed higher in the list at four and two respectively.


Is it big time for Bitcoin? Deal with Sheetz seen as a step toward mainstream acceptance

As purveyors of Bitcoin seek out mainstream acceptance, the cryptocurrency – arguably the best-known in a diverse field – may have just gotten a boost in Pennsylvania.

An example of the type of Bitcoin ATM kiosks that will be installed in six Sheetz store in Central and Western Pennsylvania and North Carolina. (Photo: Submitted)
An example of the type of Bitcoin ATM kiosks that will be installed in six Sheetz store in Central and Western Pennsylvania and North Carolina. (Photo: Submitted) 

Altoona-based Sheetz has signed an agreement with Coinsource, a provider of Bitcoin ATMs, to install Bitcoin ATM kiosks in five of its Pennsylvania stores and one in North Carolina.

The kiosks will allow customers with registered Bitcoin accounts to purchase more bitcoin or exchange it for cash.

For Sheetz, which has 580 locations, primarily in the Northeast U.S., the kiosks give people another reason to walk through its doors.

It’s not the convenience-store chain’s first foray into novel products or services. It recently added CBD oil products to shelves at 140 of its locations.

“Sheetz is constantly innovating and pioneering new offerings to give our customers what they want, when they want it, 24/7,” Ryan Sheetz, assistant vice president of brand at Sheetz, said in a statement announcing the agreement with Coinsource. “As cryptocurrency increases in popularity and demand, we are excited to add this service in our continual mission to be the ultimate one-stop-shop.”

For promoters of Bitcoin, however, it’s a small but important leap into mainstream credibility.

“Not only is it making it easier for the everyday public to use [Bitcoin], it really brings Bitcoin to the everyday consumer through a well-trusted, family-owned business,” said Derek J. Muhney, director of marketing and national sales at Coinsource.

Sheetz is not the first retailer to offer Bitcoin ATMs in its stores, but it is one of the more well-known.

Other providers in the region have Bitcoin ATMs, but most are in smaller independent shops. For example, the website coinatmradar.com shows Bitcoin ATMS at the U.S. Gas N Go on Airport Road in Allentown and at the Army & Navy Store in Whitehall.

Coinsource is one of the largest Bitcoin ATM providers, with 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs around the world.

Muhney said Coinsource currently has 250 machines in 30 U.S. states. By the end of the month that should increase to 300 machines in 40 states. The company hopes to have Bitcoin ATMs in all 50 states by year’s end.

“It definitely helps that such large businesses such as Sheetz are identifying that their customers are looking for this,”Muhney said.

And the demand for easier access to Bitcoin may be greater than those not following the evolution of cryptocurrency might realize, said Hank Korth, co-director of the computer science and business program at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

“This space is not all Bitcoin. That’s just the one that gets the most media attention,” Korth said. “But there are other significant players, especially for international currency exchange.”

He cited the Libra Consortium, led by Facebook, and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the New York-based banking giant.

Korth said Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may have started out with a bad image. Because they weren’t as traceable as traditional currencies, they were often used for illegal transactions.

People dealing in drugs, sex trafficking and even terrorism used cryptocurrencies on dark-web websites like Silk Road.

“That kind of unsavory reputation has tarnished Bitcoin in some peoples’ minds,” he said.

He said there were also concerns over security, with stories of people’s accounts being hacked and wiped out.

But, Korth said, those incidents were more about the security of the exchanges where Bitcoins were being traded than about the cryptocurrency itself. Bitcoin, by its blockchain-based design, he said, is very secure because it is crowdsource-protected.

And now, he said, the technology is energizing the way people make financial transfers.

“The way we do things as compared to what we can do is actually pretty archaic,” Korth said. “Checks are stupidly insecure.”

Plus, he said, the way ATM kiosks process Bitcoin adds to the security and traceability of the currency.

A user needs to provide a photo driver’s license to register and use an account and is given a unique personal identification number. The number gives the same kind of trail that making purchases with a credit card would, but still offers security because it isn’t stored alongside personal information.

Muhney noted that Bitcoin can actually be used to make a surprising number of purchases, from booking a flight on Virgin Airlines, to buying a Tesla automobile to renting a pad on Airbnb. He said many colleges and universities have recently begun accepting Bitcoin for payment.

Korth noted that for a time there was a Subway restaurant in South Whitehall Township that accepted Bitcoin as payment.

The shop has since closed because of redevelopment in the area, but for a while he said it was drawing in people from far distances because of its Bitcoin acceptance.

“People would drive for miles because they want to buy a footlong with their Bitcoin,” Korth said. “There is a true enthusiast community out there.”

Besides making Bitcoin more accessible, Muhney said, ATMs are a big help to underbanked populations, which are generally urban and low income, or people who simply choose not to have a traditional bank account.

But there are a couple of quirks to the use of Bitcoin that still need to be worked out before Bitcoin ATMs can become a ubiquitous source of currency in the U.S., Korth said.

Because trading in Bitcoin is considered making a purchase of property, it is technically subject to capital gains taxes.

“Let’s say I go to Sheetz and take money out of the Bitcoin ATM, then I walk over and buy a coffee. That’s a reportable sale of property … with the same rules as the exchange of foreign currency,” Korth said. “That’s an obvious barrier to transactions.”

Currently, tax regulations on such small transactions aren’t really being actively enforced. And to avoid complications, it’s likely the IRS will reword regulations to exempt, for example, exempt transactions under $200 or so.

With such changes, Korth, said the proliferation of Bitcoin ATM kiosks could give traditional banks a run for their money.

“This creates a nice convenience here,’ he said. “Now you have a new way of banking.”

The following Sheetz locations will feature Bitcoin ATMs:

  • 1915 Pleasant Valley Blvd., Altoona
  • 1315 Lincoln Way E, Chambersburg
  • 7970 Linglestown Rd., Harrisburg
  • 3025 Babcock Blvd., Pittsburgh
  • 101 Valley Vista Dr., State College
  • 2505 Somerset Center Dr., Winston-Salem, North Carolina

CBD oil is hot. But will it burn out?

Cannabidiol Oil – or CBD oil as it is commonly called – is hot right now.

Sally Crowe of Shaffer’s Health Center restocks a display of CBD oil products for sale in the Allentown Farmers market shop. PHOTO/STACY WESCOE
Sally Crowe of Shaffer’s Health Center restocks a display of CBD oil products for sale in the Allentown Farmers market shop. PHOTO/STACY WESCOE –

People are buying it, selling it and investing in it.

CBD oil is made from oil in the seeds of hemp plants – whose cultivation was legalized under the 2018 federal farm bill, making the development of CBD-based products easier and less expensive.

The oil is touted as having many curative properties, from relieving anxiety, a claim most people familiar with CBD oil accept as likely true, to more far-reaching claims that it can be used to treat everything from the common cold to cancer. There are even CBD oil-based products for pets.

Overall, the U.S. CBD market could represent a $16 billion opportunity by 2025, according to a recent report by Cowen Inc., a New York-based investment firm.

However, skeptics of the oil’s benefits, and even some of its strongest supporters, sing a familiar refrain when it comes to investing in the CBD boom: “buyer beware.”

CBD Everywhere

CBD oil-based products have been on the market since 2014 through what Geoff Whaling of the National Hemp Association described as a “narrow interpretation” of that year’s federal farm bill, which allowed for limited growing of hemp for experimental testing. The 2018 bill cleared the way for wider farming of hemp, and the use of CBD products made commercial sales more appealing to more traditional retailers.

The products – including vapes, salves, capsules, tinctures and gummies – can now be found on the shelves at a wide variety of retailers, from health food stores to truck stops. CBD shops are even  opening in malls around the nation, while mainstream retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and footwear chain DSW have started selling CBD products.

The Altoona-based Sheetz chain of convenience stores is among them. It has added CBD products to 140 of its 580 locations, including stores in Bethlehem, Harrisburg and York.

“We’re always listening to our customers,” said Brad Campbell, category manager for Sheetz. “As it becomes increasingly popular, we wanted to provide this.”

Campbell said that while the company had been eyeing the sale of CBD products for some time, the changes in the 2018 farm bill helped to legitimize the product.

“I’m not sure getting into this is something we would have considered otherwise,” he said.

No Regulation

Because the market is so relatively new and growing so quickly, sales have been likened to the Wild West, with little regulation or information on how CBD oil products are sold, claims about their benefits and the actual amount of CBD oil in products on the shelves.

Not all products on the market do or contain what they say.

Whaling noted that in 2015 the Food and Drug Administration tested a number of CBD oil products and found that 34 out of 38 contained less CBD oil than they claimed, with many containing little to no CBD oil at all.

Dr. Bruce Nicholson, a pain-management specialist with the Lehigh Valley Health Network, who was involved in helping to craft Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill, said similar tests conducted more recently by the University of Pennsylvania and John Hopkins University found that CBD levels in the products they tested were “all over the board.”

Needless to say, he has his reservations about the proliferations of CBD oil products and the claims made on their behalf.

“With something that you get at a trucks stop, you might as well put your money in the lottery,” Nicholson said. “Your odds of a good outcome are about the same.”

Many retailers tend to agree.

Sheetz’s Campbell said the company reviewed a number of CBD-oil products before choosing a handful of brands that the company felt were “strong” while still providing a variety of options.

Tom Crowe, who owns Shaffer’s Health Center in the Allentown Farmers Market, said he has tried a number of brands for his own chronic pain with mixed results.

“There’s so many companies out there that sell it, but 70 to 80 percent of them you’d want to throw in the trash,” he said.

Currently, Crowe said he uses and carries a line of CBD oil products that has greatly relieved his own back and knee pain and won positive feedback from his customers.

He said anyone looking to try CBD oil products should talk to someone with experience rather than just try something they find on a shelf. He notes CBD oil products are on the expensive side. His line ranges in price from $18 for a small bottle of oil to hundreds of dollars for a larger, stronger supply.

Generally, his customers tell him they’re using CBD products for joint pain, inflammation and anxiety. Many have been happy with the results, judging by the repeat sales.

“There’s been a tremendous increase in business,” he said.

Not enough testing

Nicholson’s biggest concern is the lack of testing that has been conducted on CBD-based products, noting that only one actual drug, used to treat epilepsy, has been approved by the FDA.

Everything else he said is mostly speculation.

“There’s a wide spectrum of claims, all of them unsubstantiated,” he said.

Nonetheless, he doesn’t believe the claims lack merit. He said a number of pre-clinical studies in animals have shown CBD oil to be helpful for treating inflammation, some types of pain and anxiety.

He said, anecdotally, he’s seen CBD oil products work on people as effectively as some prescription anti-anxiety medication. He is looking for approval to begin a study into the use of CBD oil.

“The problem is we really don’t understand it. We don’t know how it works,” he said.

He said the FDA has already gone after a number of companies for making false or unsubstantiated claims and is keeping a close eye on the industry.

For Whaling, who is an investor in the hemp industry as well as chairman of the National Hemp Association, he said he has a concern about the “money grab” underway in the CBD oil market.

“It is a money maker right now… but there are reputations at stake,” he said. “It’s a little unnerving to me that there’s so much unknown. People don’t know what they’re selling.”

His fear as an investor is that there is such a rush on CBD oil without proven benefit, the hemp industry will get a bad reputation even as it is just getting off the ground.

Worth investing?

People looking to cash in on the CBD oil craze and invest in one of the growing number of CBD oil-producing companies should proceed with caution, said Nelson.

He said some companies will likely succeed, but he cautions that most of the publicly traded companies – the majority of which are being traded on the Canadian stock exchange – are still operating at a deficit.

He said investing in a CBD oil company now would be like investing in a tech startup during the late 1990s dot-com bubble.

“There are a lot of opportunities out there, but there a lot of disasters waiting to happen,” he said.  “Right now you can’t pick which ones those will be.”