How An Unassuming Texas Gas Station Became The Buc-Ee's Sensation

For most, a trip to the gas station simply feels like a chore to knock out. Some stores, though, prompt a warmer reaction — a highlight of the day even — and a select few may even inspire fandom. For many Texans, the mega gas station complex Buc-ee's elicits such a full-out buzz of reactions. When a new location outside of Fort Worth recently opened, a crowd of more than 50 people assembled at the crack of dawn — all for a gas store!

So, what inspires such rabid appeal? In alignment with stereotypes of the Lone Star state, one stand-out attribute is size. (Although, the world's largest gas station, at 74,000 square feet, is in fact a Buc-ee's in Sevierville, Tennessee.) Yet, peer into any given Buc-ee's, and the bustle and scale are matched with exemplary facilities. There are hundreds of gas pumps, never-ending rows of infamously spotless restrooms, spacious drink fridges, and of course, the food. On offer are nearly 600 prepared food options, like barbecue brisket sandwiches and Texan favorite, kolaches.

Then there are the snacks: Several dozen jerky varieties, all the classics like nuts, chips, jams, regional sweet treats, and specific Buc-ee's creations like corn-derived Beaver Nuggets and Buc-ee Nug-ees. How did this all come together and lead to the rise of such an all-out gas station emporium? Let's dig into the details.

Buc-ee's creates an expansive, well-run gas station atmosphere

The first Buc-ee's — 3,000 square feet in size — was opened in 1982 by Arch 'Beaver' Aplin III in the small town of Clute, Texas. He was inspired by his grandparent's store, where he'd worked summers pumping gas. Now, there are 45 stores across eight states, with more openings in the works. The gas station locations are strategic, with proximity to, but not inside, urban centers, an hour or more out of the city. Most are along bustling interstate highways, ensuring passing customers catch the iconic beaver logo at all hours.

The stores also depend on their surrounding rural communities, employing a large, well-organized team. In accordance with the size, the internal functioning is a slick operation. Much like the beloved grocery chain Trader Joe's, the hiring process is rigorous, with particular attention to customer service skills. In return, the compensation is higher and there's more advancement in job opportunities within the company.

This aspect combined with a strong image — in the branding of the mascot, the products, and the atmosphere itself — means that Buc-ee's stands out from other roadside spots. With special flourishes, like the "fresh brisket on the board" call, where servers shout out to announce when there's a new slab of brisket about to be chopped for the ever-popular take-out sandwiches, Buc-ee's feels like a distinct creation. Especially when driving the long, monotonous Texan highways, such a place captivates the senses and delivers quality, too.