With 400 stores, it's easy to forget that Sheetz Inc. only had two for the first 15 years of its existence.
The convenience store firm didn't begin its explosive growth until the end of the 1960s, when now-Chairman Steve Sheetz joined his older brother Bob, the founder, as general manager.
There were three stores then, but by the end of 1972, there were 14.
Penn State Altoona professor Barbara Wiens-Tuers shows a classroom to Steve Sheetz and his granddaughter, Tess Price, 5, of New York City during a private tour of the Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence on Thursday in Altoona.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Steve and Nancy Sheetz toast the dedication of Rossman Park, built in honor of Judy Rossman (left) and her husband, Bill, Thursday in Altoona.
That same year, they said to one another, "Let's go for 100," Steve Sheetz said Thursday at the dedication of Penn State Altoona's Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence downtown.
It wouldn't have happened without the older brother's mentoring - a relationship that bestowed a confidence that allowed for taking risks and weathering mistakes - including "stupid" ones, said Sheetz, who with his wife, Nancy, donated $3 million toward the center project.
Steve Sheetz had mentoring in mind when he and his wife decided to donate the funds for the project.
He'd already been working with the entrepreneurial program at the college, liked what he saw and wanted to give the kids a better opportunity for the kind of guidance and encouragement he'd received from his brother.
They'll receive that from instructors, each other and business leaders in the community, including Sheetz himself.
Recently, on a trip to Minneapolis for the national championships of Students In Free Enterprise with the Penn State Altoona contingent, a student named Pallavi from Jakarta asked him to tell her the key to success.
He's not much of a book reader, he said, but Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule - that it takes that long to really master a profession - makes sense to him.
"No magic bullet," he said. "You've got to be willing to put those 10,000 hours in."
Pallavi and others like her in SIFE - who get no academic credit for their work in the organization - are destined to succeed because they're willing, he said.
The Sheetz gift came to the college in classic fashion.
Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry had noticed Steve's interest - he really engaged with the students - knew of his business success and started a conversation.
"It's not about asking people for money," she said.
Rather, it's about offering "an opportunity to become part of a larger vision ... an opportunity to feel good about their success," she said.
In giving, he could show support for Altoona, he and Nancy's home all of their lives, for his alma mater Penn State, for the students and for entrepreneurship, "the lifeblood of the country," Steve Sheetz said.
Faculty members began working in the building Thursday, and students will attend class there for the first time Monday, Bechtel-Wherry said.
Architect Anna Childe of Weber Murphy Fox's State College office designed the building, which was a renovation of the former Meyer-Jonasson's women's clothing store.
Childe consulted with faculty on the spaces they needed and built around them, Bechtel-Wherry said.
"It's edgy and modern," Bechtel-Wherry said.
It has "clean lines" and lots of light, she said.
And with the Times Square-style stock ticker on the first floor, visible from the new parklet next door and designated Rossman Park in honor of former banker Bill Rossman and his wife, Judy, "it really feels like the city," Bechtel-Wherry said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.