How Buc-ee's Became The Most Popular Convenience Store In Texas

Texas' favorite gas station has its own mascot and fan following. Here is the story behind the unique convenience store.

Buc-ee's Beaver Mascot
Photo: Wynn Myers

No road trip through Texas is complete without Beaver Nuggets and Dr. Pepper Icees, which you can only find at Buc-ee's. The sprawling chain of gas stations/convenience stores/mega marts that boast the best kolaches, tasty barbecue, and cleanest restrooms in the country is a fixture in the South. Here's the story of how the gas station empire started by Arch Aplin III began.

History of Buc-ee's

Aplin's grandparents, Arch and Mae Aplin, owned and ran a general mercantile and gas station they dubbed the Biggest Little Store in Catahoula Parish in Harrisonburg in central Louisiana. While their son, Arch Jr., went into construction in Texas, their grandson Arch III had inherited the family entrepreneurial streak and convenience store bug.

After spending summers pumping gas and working at his grandparents' shop, when he spied an empty lot in Lake Jackson, Texas, and knew just what he wanted to do with it. In 1982, he opened a 3,000-square-foot store at 899 Oyster Creek Drive on the border of Clute and Lake Jackson, according to Texas Monthly. Inspired by his longtime nickname, Beaver, and his beloved Lab, Buck, he named the store Buc-ee's with a cartoon beaver as its mascot.

Buc-ee's Store Expansion

The store is still a landmark to Aplin's mission because from the moment the store opened its doors, Aplin already had big plans for the store's future, telling the local paper that a chain of Buc-ee's might be next.

Soon enough, Buc-ee's was growing, although it took a while and a new partner, Don Wasek, to help them do it. According to customer reviews, Aplin and Wasek knew what customers wanted—cheap ice and clean restrooms—and that's what they focused on as they spread across Texas. The second Buc-ee's opened in 1985, with the same clean bathrooms and cheap ice but a bigger footprint (6,000 square feet) and the first on-site kitchen offering sandwiches, breakfast tacos, and doughnuts.

After, Buc-ee's took off, opening 20 stores across Brazoria County during its first two decades. As they grew, they added new, innovative features. As Texas Monthly reports, in 1989, they started selling clothing and fishing gear at their Buc-ee's Beach Store in Freeport and began hosting live music in 1991 at their Lake Jackson icehouse, Uncle Buck's. Buc-ee's also is adamantly not a truck stop.

Buc-ee's Successful Venture

It was in 2003 that Buc-ee's became the Buc-ee's that we all know and love, though. That was when they opened their Luling, Texas, outpost just off the interstate. It offered barbecue sandwiches, Buc-ee's-branded t-shirts, and Beaver Nuggets, and it was massive and still growing.

In 2006, it spread to 17,000 square feet, and in 2009, it nearly doubled in size again, going from a convenience store to a roadside attraction. Now, Buc-ee's has 34 stores total, and the self-proclaimed "Disney of convenience stores" has crossed state lines for the first time with its store in Baldwin County, Alabama, a giant 53,000-square-foot store off I-10. They plan to open several stores in Florida, too.

Buc-ee's Today

While Buc-ee's still boasts about having the Cleanest Restrooms in America (seriously, it's on their website), they have plenty of other ways to lure drivers off the road. Freshly-roasted nuts fill the stores with their alluring aroma, Icee flavors like Dr. Pepper and Big Red that no one else seems to be able to get, and a jaw-droppingly large fountain soda bar. The store also sells fresh fudge, home décor, and all the Aggie gear you need to support Texas A&M. Then there are the Beaver Nuggets, addicting bites of caramel, and sugar-coated corn puffs.

They sell 13 varieties of fresh jerky and even more versions of kolaches (a Texas by way of Czechoslovakia baked treat.) They sell a trademarked surfboard, named the Buc-ee Board, and have a BBQ counter, called the Texas Round-Up that offers brisket, sliced sausage, turkey, and fresh-to-order sandwiches.

Buc-ee's loves its employees, and it pays them well. And it values its customers, offering them everything a traveler could need or want for a fair price. In return, people love Buc-ee's. As Texas Monthly notes, when they opened a 68,000-square-foot outpost in New Braunfels, Texas, in 2012, 10,000 people came to shop on the first day. It is the largest convenience store in the world—until Buc-ee's tops itself as they undoubtedly will do.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many Buc-ee’s locations are there?

    Buc-ee’s has expanded to over 40 stores. Started in Texas, Buc-ee’s is now in and expanding to Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee

  • What is the most popular sandwich at Buc-ee’s?

    Buc-ee’s most popular sandwich is the Chopped Brisket. This sandwich features brisket with white onion, pickles, ketchup, Worcestershire, and liquid hickory smoke sauce.

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