Buc-ee’s is gaining a national persona as it expands to several states, but it’s far from being finished with Texas.
So far, it has opened two stores each in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Its first in Kentucky and South Carolina open later this month, and Buc-ee’s has plans for others in Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
The operator of supersized convenience stores known for its clean bathrooms, cheap gas and snacks has plans for a fifth store on I-35 right where I-35W from Fort Worth and I-35E from Dallas come together.
The Hillsboro City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve a staff recommendation to allow for the 125-foot tower with the beaver on top and other sign size exemptions for the retailer. That’s 25 feet taller than what the city allows.
“We’re always looking for great sites, and we’ve identified the city of Hillsboro as an ideal location,” said Jeff Nadalo, general counsel for Buc-ee’s Ltd. “We’re working to see if we can make that a reality.”
The retailer hasn’t settled on a Hillsboro site yet. Buc-ee’s has purchased some land for a northbound travel center, but it’s not large enough.
Buc-ee’s other stores on I-35 are in Denton, Fort Worth, Temple and New Braunfels, which after summer 2023 will no longer be the largest Buc-ee’s in the U.S. A larger, 74,000-square-foot store will open in Sevierville, Tenn. The proposed Hillsboro store would be as big as the Tennessee store.
That Tennessee store is one example of how Buc-ee’s picks its sites — on the road to destinations like Dollywood and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Or it picks spots between two heavily traveled destinations, what Nadalo calls “common road trips” such as the big college towns of Lexington, Ky., and Knoxville, Tenn.
Buc-ee’s first store in Kentucky opens in Richmond, south of Lexington, on April 19. This summer, its first Tennessee store will open in Crossville on the road between Nashville and Knoxville.
Based in Lake Jackson, Buc-ee’s is still 100% owned by founders Arch “Beaver’ Alpin III and Don Wasek. The retailer declined to disclose annual revenue, which some industry experts have placed at more than $500 million.
The company started its multistate expansion in 2019. It’s hard to keep up with its announcements. It already has two stores open in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
Buc-ee’s just announced plans for a store in Johnstown, Colo., north of Denver, and is actively looking in Florida, Nadalo said.
So far, the out-of-state customer reception has been good, he said. There was a lawsuit brought in Alabama saying its cheap gas prices violated state laws, but Buc-ee’s prevailed.
Plans for the Boerne store in Texas have been delayed again until 2025 due to major road construction, Nadalo said, “but we’re still planning on it.”
Buc-ee’s in recent years has circled the Dallas-Fort Worth area with stores in Fort Worth, Denton, Melissa, Royse City, Terrell and Ennis. Hillsboro would be due south. There’s a big gap southwest of D-FW.
The proposed Hillsboro store has some competition, said Arthur Mann, director of community and economic development in Hillsboro. Buc-ee’s has owned land in Waxahachie for several years, but that location would lose daily traffic coming from I-35W, he said.
Buc-ee’s has been raising wages and benefits in small towns and suburbs and now has a starting wage of $15 an hour. Each store employs 175 to 200 workers, and department manager jobs start at $22 an hour.
Many communities have given property tax abatements and sales tax breaks for the jobs. The discussions with Hillsboro haven’t reached that point yet. The city of Corinth rejected incentives requests for Buc-ee’s on I-35E in 2014. That’s how Denton got one.
H-E-B has bought property to build a supermarket next to Buc-ee’s in Melissa. The Buc-ee’s in Terrell has ended up being a huge magnet for development.
So is it still a big deal to land the smiling beaver-themed convenience store in Texas?
“Sure,” Mann said. “A lot of people out there would like to have a Buc-ee’s.”