The Untold Truth Of Buc-Ee's

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Convenience stores, gas stations, or travel centers. Call them what you will, they're an integral part of getting around in the United States. More than just a place to relieve yourself on drives, these businesses provide necessary sustenance during long journeys. In Pennsylvania, there are gas station chains like Sheetz and Wawa where road trippers can expect great sandwich and coffee combinations. In Texas — and increasingly so in nearby states — the chain Buc-ee's is winning over the hearts and minds of travelers in the South.

Buc-ee's is a chain of regional gas stations that are mostly located in Texas. Since the 1980s, Texas drivers have spotted the adorable beaver logo alongside freeways and been called to take the next available exit. In more recent times, the company has become known for even more remarkable attributes than its beaver mascot. The chain holds the record for "World's Largest Convenience Store," "World's Longest Car Wash," and has received awards for its clean restrooms.

As Buc-ee's popularity continues to grow, throughout Texas and elsewhere, so does its history. It's not just a place to get cheap food and gas refills anymore. The Southern chain is more than a place with larger-than-normal food offerings (like the company's beef jerky section). It has a captivating backstory, involving things like gas price feuds, identity theft scandals, and more. Here is the untold truth of Buc-ee's.

The first location opened in 1982

The Buc-ee's story begins with founder Arch Aplin III. The aspiring businessman had just graduated from Texas A&M, and was motivated by his father Arch (who ran a construction company) and his grandfather (who owned a general store in Louisiana). Aplin decided to follow in the footsteps of the two men he was named for. He began by buying a piece of property located at 899 Oyster Creek Drive. It was located between the Texas towns of Lake Jackson and Clute, according to Texas Monthly. This property would become the first Buc-ee's.

In 1982, Aplin opened the doors to his first Buc-ee's. Even from the start, this size was larger than the industry average for a building of this kind. The 3,000 square foot — instead of the typical 2,400 square foot — location functioned as a convenience store. A few years later, Aplin would team up with Don Wasek, another local Texan businessman. 

Wasek was another convenience store owner, whose shop was located in nearby Brazoria, Texas. Starting in around 1985, Wasek and Aplin began opening stores together (via Forbes). Per Zippia, Buc-ee's wouldn't open its record-breaking-sized location for decades to come. But the stores were still generously sized, compared to your typical gas station. Throughout the '80s, Aplin and Wasek introduced what would become iconic Buc-ee's features. A store that opened in 1985 sold sandwiches, doughnuts, and breakfast tacos. A Buc-ee's that launched in 1989 offered customers fishing gear and clothing.

A beaver is the chain's mascot

Buc-ee's is known for its cute name and beaver mascot. The origin of both comes from founder Arch Aplin III. According to Aplin, people always called him "Beaver" growing up. The founder told CBS News, "Beaver was my nickname; my mom named me that when I was born." His mom may have gotten the idea from a different company, as Aplin tells it, since Ipana toothpaste (the mascot of which is "Bucky Beaver") was popular during his upbringing. Additionally, Aplin's dog was even named "Buck," reports KHOU 11

The Buc-ee's mascot can easily be spotted by drivers making their way down Southern freeways. The circular logo features the smiling animal in a red hat against a yellow background. You can easily see this logo on the front of any Buc-ee's location, along with other places. As shown by Etsy's listings, there are tons of Buc-ee's merchandise and clothing items that are available for purchase online. Most of them feature the lovable Bucky.

Statues placed outside of each Buc-ee's location are another way to lay your eyes on the beaver. Per CBS Austin, the creator of those statues is a Texas sculptor named Clint Howard. The artist began by creating one such beaver for the owner of the Buc-ee's in Bastrop, Texas. However, the higher-ups were so impressed they invited Howard to make more. You can now expect to be greeted by a three-dimensional, metal Bucky statue when you arrive at any Buc-ee's store.

Buc-ee's is a huge deal in Texas

Buc-ee's biggest fan base is concentrated in Texas. It's where the company began and where the majority of its locations remain, according to the Buc-ee's website. There are around 40 stores open now and only six of them are located outside "The Lone Star State." It's not hard to see why Buc-ee's biggest fans are Texans. 

Texas residents are not eager to share Buc-ee's with others. Even that small handful of out-of-state Buc-ee's are too much for them to take. As the Dallas Morning News explains, "This is a crisis of identity, love, and betrayal. Buc-ee's was our weird, giant gas station with the cartoon character we don't completely understand." Nobody in Buc-ee's home state wants to let Alabama or Florida — states where Buc-ee's plans to open even more stores — lay claim to the chain.

From billboards to Reddit threads, Texans will insist that Buc-ee's rightful home is with them. On Reddit, one person explains, "Non-Texans just won't understand the beaver or the willingness to hold pee or the amazing food, so I just don't bring it up." On Yelp, the chain is impressing travelers, possibly sweetening out-of-state drivers to the state overall. A Buc-ee's visitor wrote, "Just wow – I am totally amazed...This is literally the best and largest gas station stop I have ever seen. Well like they said everything is bigger in Texas."

Buc-ee's broke the world record for "Largest Convenience Store"

Now for Buc-ee's claim-to-fame. The size. All of Buc-ee's locations are big, but only one can be record-breaking. According to the company, the Buc-ee's location that holds the world record for "Largest Convenience Store" is located in New Braunfels, Texas. Per Buc-ee's, that store is "66,335 square feet" in size.

As we've already covered, the New Braunfels location was not the first to open. The New Braunfels store is further West than the Lake Jackson/Clute original, and is located between San Antonio and Houston. This Buc-ee's didn't open until 2012. It was immediately a hit. People were stunned by the sheer amount of options afforded by the gas station's extreme size. One Tripadvisor reviewer wrote, "A must-see if you are traveling through the area. This is the biggest store in the state. Great selection of snacks and everything you could imagine."

Per KLTV, the biggest Buc-ee's initially had 60 gas pumps spread through its 18 acres, along with 31 cash registers and 80 soda machines. According to C Store Decisions, it cost around $7.4 million for Buc-ee's to build. However, the New Braunfels Buc-ee's was expected to quickly cover overhead costs. Company leaders predicted 5,500 cars would stop there each day. 

A new location of Buc-ee's coming to Tennessee is the biggest yet

Unfortunately for those proud Buc-ee's fans in Texas, the New Braunfels location will soon lose its title as the world's largest convenience store, soon. Although it's not open yet, some Texas residents are already shaking in their boots at the thought of another state being home to the biggest Buc-ee's. At least one Texan was upset online, saying, "Tennesseeans volunteered to fight and die for Texas independence, and this is how they repay us..." (via Reddit).

According to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, the usurping location will be located in Sevierville, Tennessee. It will be 74,000 square feet — over 8,000 feet larger than the 66,335 square feet taken up by the New Braunfels, Texas store. Per KXAN, this new Buc-ee's will not only have a world record but "120 fuel pumps, electric vehicle charging stations and a car wash over 250 feet long." Different opening dates are circulating online, most of them placing the Sevierville Buc-ee's launch sometime in 2022 or 2023(via Fox 17).

Sevierville was chosen as the city to take the throne because of its proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, reports Eater. This spot could be attractive to Buc-ee's for a few reasons. For one, the park is located in the American South (a.k.a. Buc-ee's-land). For another, this park is extremely popular with tourists. Around 14 million people visit each year. It's a great opportunity for Buc-ee's family-friendly vibe to inspire corresponding customers.

It also holds the world record for "Longest Car Wash"

One record wasn't enough for Buc-ee's. After the New Braunfels location gained the title of "World's Largest Convenience Store" in 2012, it was time for some new clout. Buc-ee's opened the "World's Longest Car Wash" in 2017, per the company.

Buc-ee's record-breaking car wash is a part of its travel center located in Katy, Texas. According to Atlas Obscura, the car wash cost $3 million to build. If you have the pleasure of taking your car through the wash, you'll find it contains 25 brushes and 17 high-powered blow dryers. Overall, the wash is so long that it takes a full five minutes to drive through.

The convenience store chain was recognized by the officials from Guinness World Records in November 2017, shortly after the Buc-ee's opened (via CSP Daily News). Founder Arch Aplin III even received an official document acknowledging the Buc-ee's for its landmark. However, Aplin says it wasn't his intention to get this record when he set out to build the Katy-located Buc-ee's. The founder told Click2Houston, "Actually, it didn't occur to us when we were designing this car wash that this day might happen. We just set out to design and build the best car wash in the world."

The amount of gas pumps make Buc-ee's a popular place to refuel on road trips

But Buc-ee's is not just known for convenience stores with record-breaking square footage. Each location is accompanied by dozens of gas pumps. It's part of what brings travelers to Buc-ee's in the first place. When exiting the highway to take a break from the driving journey, travelers know they probably won't have to wait long at Buc-ee's. That's usually due to the sheer amount of gas pumps that prevent lines from forming.

Ford Fry, a Texas native, told Eater of the gas pump-filled rest stops, "You want to plan your trip so that you run out of gas right there." The Architect's Newspaper likened the long shade canopies covering gas pumps at Buc-ee's to the huge shape of Buc-ee's home state of Texas. The website compared the canopy shade to the stretching 12-hour travel time of driving across Texas. 

Unfortunately for some, the large amount of options at Buc-ee's tends to create problems reported by some of the chain's patrons. One Reddit user wrote, "Unpopular opinion Buc-ee's is not good...People just park their cars at the pump and leave for 30 min like they own it." One another Reddit thread, one person complained that "everything is overpriced." However, plenty of users came to defend Buc-ee's gas, in particular, calling it some of the cheapest around.

Truck drivers are not welcome at Buc-ee's

Buc-ee's may be great, but none of the locations are of any use to truck drivers. The 18-wheelers are banned from Buc-ee's locations. There is even a sign hanging at most of the chain's travel centers that says as much.

A representative from Buc-ee's explained to KVUE the reasons behind the ban on semis. "Buc-ee's strives to provide its customers with the best experience possible, which includes the world's cleanest bathrooms, great food, and plenty of parking," says Jeff Nadalo, a Buc-ee's representative. "The layout of Buc-ee's travel centers is optimized for passenger vehicles," he continued. "Buc-ee's driveways and parking lots are simply not designed for the safe and efficient use by 18-wheeler trucks."

Despite this comment, some truckers think they've uncovered a hidden meaning behind the ban. A few semi-drivers think that Buc-ee's is making a statement about the personal hygiene of truckers. They think Buc-ee's feels truck drivers are not clean, and letting them into rest stops could damage the reputation of the chain's restrooms (via El Paso Car Transport). Feelings are hurt. But if anything, one Yelp user and trucker says the ban only shows how badly everyone wants to feel welcome at Buc-ee's.

Buc-ee's restrooms are a big deal

Restrooms have long been an important part of the Buc-ee's experience. Even in the early days of the American convenience store chain, Buc-ee's was all about provding "clean, friendly, and in stock" stores (via Buc-ee's). Today, the company continues to be recognized by travelers for its bathrooms.

In 2012, Buc-ee's received the "Best Restroom Award" from Cintas, a company that should know what it's talking about — as it manufactures bathroom supplies. In its recognition of Buc-ee's, Cintas wrote that the chain was "Offering up some of the most spotless loos in the Lone Star State," (via Best Restrooms). They applauded the generous amount of stalls open at Buc-ee's world record-breaking location in New Braunfels. With 83 stalls, they say, it's unlikely you'll ever have a long wait to use "the john."

In 2019, Buc-ee's was recognized again for its restrooms by GasBuddy. According to the Austin American-Statesman, in a user-based poll, people rated the Buc-ee's restrooms the best in Texas. Extremely complimentary remarks overall also gave the company the top ranking for gas station restrooms in the U.S.

Cleanliness isn't the only reason why people love the Buc-ee's bathrooms. Some locations even have lights that signal whether or not a stall is occupied (via The Washington Post). They're also typically spacious, offering privacy to each bathroom-goer. As many other people on Tripadvisor will attest, Buc-ee's has "the cleanest, best restrooms on the highway."

The New Braunfels store sparked a gas price feud

When the New Braunfels location of Buc-ee's opened in 2012, it didn't just break a world record. It also caused a bit of controversy in the San Antonio area (where New Braunfels is located). The controversy stemmed from gas prices. Upon opening, Buc-ee's prices were much lower than nearby competitors.

According to My San Antonio, the average at the time in the state was around $3.49 a gallon. However, at Buc-ee's, "drivers could fill up their tanks with regular unleaded for $3.09." Places like Wal-Mart and H-E-B took notice of Buc-ee's and began to lower prices as well. The outlet connected the opening of Buc-ee's New Braunfels location to drops all over the San Antonio area. Per the Daytona Beach News-Journal, a similar feud happened as recently as 2021, when Buc-ee's opened a new location in Florida.

These controversies were temporary and localized. Lowering prices for grand openings is even a tactic that other chains will employ when opening a new location (via 13 WMAZ). But some drivers still prefer Buc-ee's as the place to get gas. They think the chain continues to offer low prices. TexasSnax argues that while other chains may lower gas for an opening, Buc-ee's maintains those cheap gas prices. 

It's known for selling specific foods (and a lot of them)

You'll find familiar food sections at Buc-ee's as you would at other convenience stores. There is a coffee section, a sandwich section, a soda fountain, plenty of chips, candy bars, and other gas station staples. At Buc-ee's, you'll be able to get all of that but in much larger quantities. There are more snack options than you could ever imagine inside its stores.

However, Buc-ee's doesn't just have lots of granola bars and packaged nuts, the company has a few specialties. Beef jerky is a particularly important one. Brisket is another. You can choose this meat option in the barbecue or breakfast taco section. Even Food & Wine agrees that in such a competitive barbecue-obsessed place such as Texas, state residents still voice their approval for the brisket at Buc-ee's. A Tripadvisor reviewer attested to this, writing, "Being a Texan requires one to occasionally eat a BBQ Brisket Sandwich and I found a great one at Buc-ee's."

In addition to brisket, we recommend the kolaches. These Czech-turned-Texan-filled pastries are a treat throughout the state (via House of Yumm). Sometimes, the savory version, which usually involves sausage, are called Klobasneks (a.k.a. Klobásníks). You can get some at Buc-ee's. If you're in the mood for something sweeter, try the fudge counter (it's also a Buc-ee's fan-favorite). Per Eater, there are dozens of different kinds of fudge.

Beaver Nuggets are one of the most iconic snacks

Out of all the memorable snacks at Buc-ee's, Beaver Nuggets are likely the most important. These dried sweets are maybe more beloved than the beef jerky, brisket, or kolaches — combined. One Amazon review called the snacks "so excellent it's unbelievable," elaborating that "You will not be able to eat just a handful."

Beaver Nuggets come in a clear bag at Buc-ee's, allowing you to see all of the delicious, crunchy treats inside. Southern Living describes the snacks as "caramel-coated puffed corn kernels." TexasSnax, which sells Beaver Nuggets, called each of them a "delectable puffy yet crunchy corn nugget with a brown sugar caramel coating." The Houston Chronicle says these snacks are the perfect driving treat because Beaver Nuggets are not messy, both sweet and salty, and come in a huge bag.

These treats come in several flavors outside of the original, so there are even a lot of options when it comes to picking out a bag of Buc-ee's signature snacks. There are spicy, cheesy, and salty flavors of Beaver Nuggets available for the taking at every Buc-ee's location.

The company was once victimized by an identity theft scheme

In 2015, Buc-ee's was the victim of an identity theft scheme. As the KHOU 11 reports, the series of crimes ended up costing the convenience store chain around $18,000. The crimes took place at 14 different Buc-ee's locations in Texas, including one in Freeport, as well as those in cities like "Lake Jackson, Angleton, Giddings, Pearland, League City, Waller, and Temple," according to Click 2 Houston.

Authorities told the Houston Chronicle that the scheme began with thieves stealing credit card information online. They most likely loaded that information into a magnetic strip that they had purchased. Once these steps were finished, the thieves headed to Buc-ee's. The crime ring (which consisted of a few different individuals caught on camera) visited the gas stations where they bought various products using stolen information. According to reports, cartons of cigarettes were the most common products purchased, which police believed the thieves were likely going to resell for a profit online.

As the Houston Business Journal explains, the owners of those stolen credit cards could dispute the information and be reimbursed. However, Buc-ee's was the party responsible for repaying them. Luckily, the short crime spree didn't seem to have affected Buc-ee's too much and business is thriving. 

It once sued its own brisket supplier for price increases

Buc-ee's has been involved in its fair share of lawsuits over the years. One of the more amusing ones involved the supplier of Buc-ee's brisket — the maker of that delicious meat that ends up on customers' barbecue sandwiches and breakfast tacos.

The lawsuit occurred in 2016. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Buc-ee's filed against a business called Sadler's Smokehouse, located in Brazoria County, Texas. Per My San Antonio, Buc-ee's sued over an increase in the price of the smokehouse's beef. Buc-ee's claimed this increase was costing the company around $550,000. This was not just annoying to Buc-ee's. The convenience store chain alleged that it had a prior agreement with Sadler's Smokehouse that stipulated all forthcoming price increases must be communicated to Buc-ee's in writing. Buc-ee's says they received no such notice ahead of the disputed beef costs raises and took legal action.

This wasn't the first (nor the last) time that Buc-ee's was involved in a lawsuit. Most of the other instances of legal trouble involve copyright issues where Buc-ee's attempted to prevent other American chains from profiting off the gas station's recognizable name, logo, or beaver mascot. In 2019, Texas Monthly reported that Buc-ee's had sued at least four other convenience stores in the six years leading up to the report. Lawsuits involved smaller Texas gas stations such as B&B Grocery, Chicks, Choke Canyon, and Irv's Field Store. In most of these cases, Buc-ee's came out on top.

The chain takes pride in how it treats employees

As anyone who's been to a Buc-ee's already knows, the chain makes a big deal about how it treats employees. Most locations of Buc-ee's contain signs letting every customer in the store know about it. These signs are sometimes yellow and hang from the ceiling, or blue and stand outside in front of the store. But wherever they are and whatever they look like, they are made to be easily spotted.

According to recent signs advertising Buc-ee's hourly wages, pay seems to range between $15 and $32 per hour at the onset of 2022. On the low end, the wages are nearly double Texas' minimum wage. Per Labor Law Center, the minimum wage for Texas workers in 2022 is $7.25 per hour. This pay rate hasn't changed since 2011, either.

Business Insider reports that Buc-ee's wage signs are not just meant to boost the company's image. They are meant to attract new employees to the ever-growing chain. Jeff Nadalo, a top lawyer for the company, explained how the signs help them recruit Buc-ee's team members. "Our customers expect and look forward to a very unique experience. We have to attract the best talent," Nadalo explained. Additionally, Nadalo says the signs communicate to current employees what opportunities there are for advancement. How Buc-ee's (at least appears to) take pride in its staff members is yet another reason why customers are so loyal to the convenience store chain.

Buc-ee's continues to grow, opening stores in more and more states

Four decades after opening that first Buc-ee's in Texas, the company keeps winning. Zippia reports that the chain's annual revenue is approximately $300 million. The company's success has allowed the company to expand its brand. They are doing so by opening more and more locations outside of Texas.

The first non-Texas Buc-ee's opened in 2019, in Robertsdale, Alabama (via NBC DFW). Following this launch, even more non-Texas Buc-ee's locations opened up in the South. These stores are located in Alabama, as well as Georgia and Florida. However, CSP Daily News says that Buc-ee's is planning to open stores in states such as South Carolina and Mississippi. Per the outlet, Buc-ee's wants to open 12 locations outside of Texas between 2022 and 2026.

Construction is already underway for the Tennessee location (the one set to break records), per WKRN. The second-most exciting Buc-ee's opening is the location planned for Colorado. The Buc-ee's will open its doors in Johnston, Colorado, at some point during 2024, reports My San Antonio. According to Axios Denver, the square footage of this location is expected to be around 74,000 feet. Unfortunately for the Texas fanbase, this size also exceeds that of the New Braunfels store. It looks like a lot of Buc-ee's upcoming out-of-state locations will easily out-size the reigning champion in the San Antonio suburbs. However, we know that Buc-ee's true home will always be in Texas.