To be fair, the urgency of this article’s title is a bit unrealistic since there’s really no such thing as the “sudden appearance” of a Buc-ee’s. The massive gas station/convenience stores are spread along interstates across the South, and there are plenty of billboards warning that one is coming up. Much more than a mere pit stop, it’s a “must-visit” destination for road warriors.
Buc-ee’s got its start in Texas in the early 1980s and has since grown into a roadside empire, popping up in Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida. Continuing its expansion, Buc-ee’s recently opened its largest store yet in Sevierville, TN, offering both locals and travelers another opportunity to experience the adventure. A new Buc-ee’s isn’t just the talk of the town; it’s the talk of many towns.
A Buc-ee’s visit has become a special occasion in the South — here are some of the reasons they’ve earned so much hype!
#1: Amazing Restrooms
While bathrooms might not be the sexiest thing to discuss, they are a crucial element of any rest stop on the road, and the lavatories at Buc-ee’s are famously immaculate. Awarded “Best Restrooms in America” by several publications, besting four-star hotels and upscale restaurants, the bathrooms at Buc-ee’s feature more stalls than your average pro football stadium loo. They are meticulously cleaned around the clock by a dedicated staff. The walls are decorated with regionally thematic artwork (which is also for sale like everything else at Buc-ee’s), and that’s part of the reason Arch boasts that his restrooms should be called “The Taj Ma-stall.”
#2: Competitive Fuel (and Electricity)
Buc-ee’s is so confident travelers will pull in for the experience that they don’t even list gas prices on their billboards. There’s no reason to compete with other gas station chains in price wars. Buc-ee’s doesn’t even reveal its prices as cars arrive in the lot — it’s a secret until drivers pull up to the pump.
However, their gas prices are usually quite competitive, and further discounts are available for signing up for a signature Buc-ee’s credit card. Because, of course, they have their own credit card. Buc-ee’s doesn’t forget about electric vehicle owners, either. There are plenty of charging stations available at each location. More than just a magnanimous gesture, Buc-ee’s would love for you to leave your car at the charger for an hour so you have time to partake in a bit of shopping.
#3: Dogs are welcome, but truckers are not.
Buc-ee’s locations feature dog parks so pups can stretch their legs during a long car ride. However, signs at each entrance warn that semis are not allowed. The chain does not offer diesel-filling facilities for 18-wheelers. There are several reasons for this (seemingly discriminatory) regulation. First, Buc-ee’s already dedicates a lot of real estate to its parking lots and stores, and truck parking would take up even more space. Second, truckers typically run on a pretty tight schedule. They don’t have time to linger in the store for food and souvenirs. Additionally, truckers often seek a lot to park and spend the night — another instance of lost revenue for Buc-ee’s. The beaver doesn’t play like that.
This corporate decision does at least offer an opportunity for smaller, independent gas stations to try to survive in the shadow of a Buc-ee’s. When the chain recently announced plans to build two new locations in Tennessee near Clarksville and Murfreesboro, an employee at an I-24 station one exit down the road past the future Murfreesboro location lamented, “Nobody’s going to want to stop here anymore! At least we can still have the truckers.”
#4: The food selection is spectacular.
“Gas station food” has traditionally gotten a bad rap — a mid-trip necessity versus something to look forward to. Let’s face it: any sandwich in a plastic triangular box or coming off the greasy hot rollers near the soda machine probably isn’t the freshest or healthiest thing you can eat on the road. However, there has been a bit of a renaissance and increased interest in quality convenience store food. Some states have even designed tourist “trails” around their notable gas station food. Gas station cuisine is now hot, or you could even say haute.
However, the food selection at Buc-ee’s is next level. In addition to the expected selection of chips and candy, Buc-ee’s features walls covered with every sort of snack imaginable, including dozens of beef jerky varieties with a per-ounce price well above any fine steakhouse filet mignon. A case of specialty sausages offers even more meat treats.
Automated ordering kiosks allow shoppers to select from a dizzying array of hot food options, from Buc-ee’s famously overstuffed brisket and pulled pork sandwiches to hot dogs, burgers, burritos, tacos, and biscuit sandwiches. In a hurry? Buc-ee’s has plenty of grab-and-go options.
A full bakery offers pastries, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and other baked goods, including sweet and savory kolaches, a Texas tradition spreading across the region thanks to Buc-ee’s expansion. Like the best pig in a blanket you’ve ever had, a kolache is a rolled pastry stuffed with either a sweet filling or sausage and cheese. Try one, and you’ll likely be a quick convert. Other food bars sell roasted and cinnamon-glazed nuts and multiple flavors of fudge, and no visit to Buc-ee’s is complete without buying a bag of Beaver Nuggets. This crave-able puffed snack lives somewhere on the Periodic Table of Food between caramel corn and corn pops.
Prepared food items are also available, so if you need some pickled quail eggs or your hot sauce pantry could use a few dozen new additions, they’ve got you covered.
#5: Shopping! No, seriously.
The inventory of your average Buc-ee’s (if there is such a thing) is mind-boggling. It’s as if a Cracker Barrel gift shop married a Bass Pro Shop and moved into a Walmart. It’s easy to spend an hour browsing Buc-ee’s retail, constantly amazed by the range of products. While it probably won’t fit in the trunk of your Camry, you can buy a full-size pit smoker to make your own brisket at home. Or maybe you’re a hunter and want to attract deer to your land with a five-foot-tall, 150 lb. deer feeder. They’ve got that, too. Perhaps you can strap that massive outdoor fire pit to the roof of your car using the ratchet straps that Buc-ee’s also sells.
The home furnishing department is staggering, offering everything from inspirational and humorous tea towels to cast iron cookware, candles, and cookbooks. Buc-ee’s caters to outdoors fans as well, with a vast assortment of yard games, beachwear, pool toys, camouflage clothing, and cowboy hats. Did we mention you can also get a Buc-ee’s Halloween costume?
Naturally, Buc-ee’s also sells almost anything you can think of to feature an appliqée of its buck-toothed beaver mascot. The Buc-ee’s logo is ubiquitous around the South, where you’ll see people drinking out of branded mugs and glasses, partying in Buc-ee’s lawn chairs around Buc-ee’s coolers on Buc-ee’s camp tables. Walk down the beach in 30-A, and you’re almost sure to see at least one fellow tourist wearing a Buc-ee’s t-shirt. You, too, can be a walking Buc-ee’s billboard.
Interestingly, Buc-ee’s does not sell any of its merchandise online — much like how Masters gear isn’t available outside of the Augusta National Golf Club. Some third-party online shops sell Beaver Nuggets and Buc-ee’s-branded gear, but they must purchase it at retail prices in a Buc-ee’s store like everyone else before marking it up and selling it to fans online.
#6: Buc-ee’s treats its employees extremely well.
With over 3,000 employees spread across seven states, Buc-ee’s has a huge staff to manage, and they care for them very well. The average starting pay is around $16-18 an hour, and managers can earn as much as $225,000 a year. No wonder they all have such big smiles when you walk through the door! Employees receive medical, dental, and vision insurance and a 401(k) match. Buc-ee’s workers get three weeks of paid time off every year, and the company has negotiated employee discounts at more than 250 retailers, from Kroger to John Deere, though curiously, not in their own stores.
The company posts its salary ranges on signs right outside the building, so you might be tempted to call your boss and say you’re not coming back from vacation. There are many worse places to spend your time than at a Buc-ee’s, that’s for sure!
All photos by Chris Chamberlain.
For more ideas about spots to stop along the way to your next vacation, visit our archives.