State senator rips Sheetz

Sheetz is on the front lines of the fight to privatize liquor.

The convenience store makes it very clear it wants to sell beer, even wine, in Pennsylvania.

Employees behind the cash registers wear huge buttons that read, 'Want beer here?'. In-store signage encourages customers to keep informed on the legislative push to privatize.

Sheetz is ready to sell beer immediately should lawmakers give them the green light. The newer stores have huge walk-in coolers. They're currently filled with soda, but will quickly and easily switch to beer if allowed.

But often in battle, the groups on the front lines get shot. Sheetz got hit Tuesday during a public hearing in the Senate.

Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley pointed out that Sheetz was in the hearing room and boasted that Sheetz, and others, stand ready to create jobs if given the opportunity under privatization.

Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) scoffed at Cawley's suggestion.

“The notion that you're gonna kill all these family sustaining jobs and that somehow people are gonna go out and work for minimum wage at a damn Sheetz, I think, is outrageous,” Ferlo said.

Louie Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing, was in the room as Cawley's guest and heard Ferlo's remarks.

“That one angered me only because it's not true,” Sheetz said Thursday.

Sheetz said every one of the store's 9,000 employees in Pennsylvania makes more than minimum wage.

“For him (Ferlo) to come out and say 'damn Sheetz and minimum-wage paying jobs,' it offended me only from a standpoint that he didn't have his fact right,” Sheetz said.

“It's disrespectful. A job is a job, right?” said Dale Paige of Hershey, a Sheetz customer. “You're a hard-working person … it's not something I would've said, let's put it that way.”

But Tuesday's minimum-wage comment wasn't last call for Ferlo. He made it a double shot.

“Let's be honest about Sheetz and all these other convenience stores. Yes, they're a reality whether I like it or not,” he said. “They rip people off every day. They charge outrageous prices, they have smaller products. They're an economic reality.”

Jim Massey of Shippensburg just ordered a Sheetz made-to-order sandwich, but found Ferlo's comments distasteful.

“To say something like that about a business in Pennsylvania seems kind of brazen and bold because they serve a purpose and that purpose is convenience,” he said.

Sheetz has 226 stores in the commonwealth, 446 total. Nearly 200 Sheetz stores in other states sell beer and wine.

The convenience store chain hopes to sell beer and wine in Pennsylvania. It expected political resistance, but Louie says he was blindsided by Ferlo uncorked.

“It surprised me that a senator, an elected official at a high level, would behave the way he did,” Sheetz said. “He was not a very nice man to be able to take shots at people like that.”

abc27 contacted Ferlo for comment. He did not apologize to Sheetz but did issue a statement in which he said he is “very passionate and concerned about the issue of liquor privatization and the workers whose jobs are threatened by the governor's proposal.”

“I firmly believe that liquor privatization will lead to job loss, higher prices, and less selection for consumers,” he added. “My comments at this week's hearing regarding convenience stores were meant to generally refer to what I believe will happen if there is a proliferation of alcohol sales, which is a certain result of the governor's plan.”

The Senate is expected to have a liquor privatization proposal in the next two weeks.

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