Sheetz is turning to a Columbus development partner to carry out its ambitious expansion plans in Central Ohio.
Skilken Gold is helping the Altoona, Pennsylvania-based convenience store brand as it carries out plans to open 10 to 12 units a year in Central Ohio with a goal of around 50 total.
Isaac Gold, Skilken Gold’s vice president of real estate, spoke of the challenges the companies are facing while discussing Sheetz’ latest announced location in New Albany at the northwest corner of Johnstown Road and Walton Parkway.
“More than a few groups wanted this property,” he said. “Many of the sites (we’re looking at) will be fuel centers. We think it’s a pretty easy choice between Sheetz, which has fresh fruit and grocery items, versus a place that’s just candy bars and gas.”
Though the gas station and convenience aspects of the business are core, as President and Chief Operating Officer Travis Sheetz previously told Columbus Business First, the company’s differentiator is its made-to-order food and more restaurant-like attributes.
The site is the newest addition to an expanding list of locations for the new-to-market Sheetz. Construction on the company’s first local units is underway with April openings targeted.
Gold said there are more than a dozen sites under contract though none could be confirmed beyond those already disclosed through the development process.
Skilken Gold, a fourth-generation family-owned developer, has been scouting the Columbus market for Sheetz for more than a year, well before the company said it planned to come here late last year.
“I talk to Sheetz more than I talk to my own family,” Gold joked.
The relationship between the two companies goes back a few years and predates the Columbus development push. Skilken Gold has worked with Sheetz in the Pittsburgh and Cleveland markets as well.
Third-generation CEO Ken Gold pursued Sheetz as a client for years. Isaac, his son, was able to land them a few years ago after striking up a conversation at an industry conference.
“One of the things we’re most proud of was we were able to show them what we’re capable of in Pittsburgh,” Gold said. “Sites were hard to find. You have difficult topography.”
So when Sheetz decided to come to Columbus, it already had a partner in place.
“The challenge is finding sites when there’s not flashing ‘for sale’ sign,” Gold said. “Green pastures at $8,000 an acre aren’t available.”
He attributed much of Skilken Gold’s success on its reputation and relationships, particularly among those who’ve been around for generations; the New Albany deal being a good example.
“There are relationships throughout Columbus where the groundwork was laid decades ago,” he said. “You have direct relationships and then this road map of common relationships.”
Gold also said it helps to have a sought-after partner in Sheetz.
The Sheetz business also has helped Skilken Gold do more work in its home market. The company started as a shopping center developer, but in the 1990s began divesting from that real estate in favor of single-tenant development.
Skilken Gold works nationwide with a list of clients that includes Kroger, Walmart, CVS, KFC and Wendy’s.
Gold said business at this moment is about 50% in Central Ohio and much of that is Sheetz.
Read the article in Columbus Business First.