At a Glance
Convenience store and gas station construction
Headquartered in Pennsylvania and seated in more than 430 locations in six states, Sheetz is something of a household name for drivers, commuters, families and anyone else needing to grab a great meal or fuel up. Employing more than 14,500 people and charged with an aggressive expansion plan, Sheetz added 32 stores and 20 major remodels in 2012 and has $200 million budgeted for 34 new stores and 25 major remodels in 2013. It’s Doug Knisely’s job as director of building and petroleum construction for Sheetz to meet the company’s growth goals by delivering high-quality facilities on schedule and within budget.
“We have a great team in store development that work very hard to make all of this happen. Our group takes these projects from the real estate, design, and permitting departments all the way to delivery,” Knisely says. Some of Knisely’s other responsibilities include input on building and UST design, scheduling and prioritization of new builds and remodels, and construction maintenance for all 430 stores.
Top 5 Steps to Delivering a New Sheetz Station
1. Secure the real estate. For each project, the company’s in-house real estate team locates new property, bids on it, and signs on the dotted line.
2. Approve the design and create the drawings. Every site is unique: options can include carwashes, truck diesel zones, indoor seating, drive-thrus, rear entrances, larger restrooms, and vestibules.
3. Permit the project. The Sheetz team secures site-plan approval, MPDES, zoning, building, and mechanical permits.
4. Construct the project. Taking an average of 17 weeks, hired contractors do the site development, building construction, petroleum construction, and mechanicals.
5. Turn it over to operations. Sheetz expands its 14,500-person labor force by training a new staff, and the “Open” sign is switched on.
When Knisely started with Sheetz in 1987, the company kept all of the major trades—carpentry, electrical, plumbing, masonry, HVAC/refrigeration, etc.—in house, and the team was able to construct up to 50 percent of the company’s growth per year. “As the business grew, our in-house team evolved more into managers and project managers and started contracting all of the work out, in lieu of constructing stations ourselves,” Knisely says. By the early 1990s, Sheetz had converted entirely to contracting out its trades for station construction in order to keep up with the company’s aggressive expansion plan.
In addition to the convenience store elements of each station, construction also typically includes the installation of up to four steel or fiberglass gas and diesel storage tanks (which have the capacity for up to 60,000 gallons of product), dispenser-island canopies, and a state-of-the-art double-wall piping system.
“While the petroleum offerings at Sheetz and other gas stations can be the primary draw for customers, our main focus is on food,” Knisely says. “Many of our new store designs include drive-thrus [and] indoor and outdoor seating. We consider ourselves a restaurant that just happens to sell gas.”
Construction schedules start with building footings, and it typically takes 17 weeks to turn a store over to operations. Sheetz has historically used steel framing for its store structures, but it recently made a shift to using wood-panelized building systems, effectively shortening the time it takes to get under roof by an average of two weeks. “These wood-frame systems are considerably better from a schedule and financial standpoint,” Knisely says.
Because Sheetz is operating stations across six different states, Knisely and his team are not only ordering their schedule to deliver on Sheetz’ aggressive expansion plan; they are also allowing for updates on existing stations to ensure the buildings, fuel-dispensing islands, and mechanical systems stay up to date and up to code. With the construction of 34 new stations underway for 2013, Knisely says, “It’s a lot of work, and an aggressive plan, but a great position to be in.” ABQ