Tuesday, April 16, 2019

[ALERT] Texas Convenience Store Operator Buc-ee's Planning Georgia "Invasion"

Convenience store operator Buc-ee's is looking to further expand beyond Texas following its January debut in Alabama and Georgia is in its sights!  Buc-ee's first opened in 1982 in Lake Jackson, a suburb of Houston, and while their original locations were typical of most other operators with a dozen or so fuel pumps and a basic looking convenience store of about 3,000 square feet, their next generation stores are anything but typical.

Buc-ee's, known for its "Texas sized" convenience stores, some of which can be 60,000+ square feet, its immaculate restrooms, and wide variety of products, is a tourist attraction of sorts in Texas, with patrons calling it the "Disney World" of convenience stores. [RaceTrac and QuikTrip convenience stores often measure 4,500-6,000 square feet, whereas typical Kroger stores measure 55,000 square feet.]

After expanding an existing store to 17,000 square feet in Luling, Texas in 2001, the company opened their largest location to date, a 68,000 square foot mega-travel center in New Braunfels, near San Antonio, in 2012.  The store, located off Interstate 35, holds the title of "largest convenience store in the world" and features 120 fuel pumps, 83 toilets, 31 cash registers, 80 fountain dispensers and 4 ICEE machines. It also offers tubing and water gear for enjoying the nearby Guadalupe River.

Make no mistake though, Buc-ee's is NOT a truck stop and 18 wheelers are not welcome at any of the company's locations.  

ToNeTo Atlanta in late 2017 visited the company's then recently opened travel center in Katy, Texas, in the greater Houston area.  The 56,000 square foot store, located near Katy Mills [a large indoor outlet mall], opened in late August 2017 and features a Guinness Book of World Record title holding 255 foot long car wash and about 120 fuel pumps. 
The record setting car wash at Buc-ee's in Katy

In addition to the fuel, Buc-ee's sells a lot of not so typical c-store merchandise.  In addition to plenty of soda and sandwiches, Buc-ee's sells multiple varieties of fudge, "world famous" jerky, sugared nuts, as well as Dippin' Dots ice cream, among other food offerings. 

The store's offerings don't stop at food, however, with plenty of private label "Buc-ee's" branded merchandise [stuffed animal beavers, hats, shirts, stickers etc.] as well as home decor, books, and clothing and accessories from higher end brands like Oakley, Reef, Sanuk, Costa and Toms, among others. 

Buc-ee's, whose tagline is "Clean, friendly and in stock" is perhaps best known for their immaculate restrooms. Arch "Beaver" Aplin, the store's co-founder, is keen on his restrooms being the cleanest and most readily available in the industry.  To that end, restrooms are monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by uniformed employees whose sole responsibility is to keep them pristine.  Additionally, this past fall, the company partnered with "Tooshlights," a "restroom traffic management system."  In the same way some malls and shopping centers have installed lights to indicate available parking spaces, Tooshlights indicates available restroom stalls, "eliminating the awkward experience of having to peek under stalls to see if they are occupied." 
Assorted not so typical convenience store merchandise at Buc-ee's in Katy
About one third of the chain's 34 open or pending locations have at least 50 fueling stations, with three open locations offering at least 120 fueling stations.

So when could Buc-ee's enter Georgia?  That's not clear, but they are coming. 

On the heels of their opening in Robertsdale, Alabama at the gateway of the the Baldwin Beach Express, Aplin mentioned a long awaited opening in Leeds, in addition to the idea that company is "looking" at sites in the Auburn area. 

Leeds, a city about 30 miles east of Birmingham, will welcome Buc-ee's to a 15 acre parcel near The Outlet Shops at Grand River.  Buc-ee's reportedly purchased the property for $9 million in early 2018. 

Beyond Texas and Alabama, Buc-ee's stores are slated to open in St. Johns County, Daytona Beach, and Fort Myers, Florida. All three were at one point slated for 2019 debuts, but have all been pushed to 2020/2021 openings.  Reports indicate that the company spent some $13.9 million to acquire 35 acres in the northeast quadrant of the I-95/LPGA Boulevard interchange for its planned 120 pump location in Daytona Beach. 

"World domination" is how Texas Monthly described the Buc-ee's expansion effort in a recent cover story, which chronicles the beginnings of the company with Aplin. 

The story describes a map in the corner of Aplin's office with thumbtacks where he sees additional locations beyond Texas. When the reporter commented that it looked like an invasion, Aplin didn't flinch. "It does kind of look like an invasion, doesn't it?" he said.

At least six thumbtacks circle suburbs of Atlanta where Aplin hopes to catch drivers traveling to and from Birmingham, Charlotte, Nashville and other nearby areas of interest.   The thumbtacks on Aplin's map stretched into North Carolina too. 
The Katy Buc-ee's 
The company, which registered "Buc-ee’s Georgia, LLC" February 1 with the Georgia Secretary of State's office, has reportedly hired Atlanta-based The Shopping Center Group to assist in site selection in Georgia.  

One area Buc-ee's is likely to be looking in Georgia is in Locust Grove near the Tanger Outlets, given their preference for being near outlets, and since there are still large parcels available.  Other potential areas could include places like Dalton (en route to Chattanooga or Nashville), Villa Rica (en route to Birmingham) and Lavonia (en route to Charlotte).
This coming October, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) will hold its annual convention at the Georgia World Congress Center.  Buc-ee's, like most major c-store operators, will have representatives at the show and while it's basically impossible that Atlanta will have a Buc-ee's by then, there is reason to believe it won't be too long before Georgians get to experience the Texas-sized c-store first hand.  

If you'd like to learn more about Buc-ee's, this Forbes article is a great resource.  
Check out our Instagram page (@tonetoatl) for more photos from our visit to the Buc-ee's in Katy. 

Have you ever been to a Buc-ee's?  Where would you like to see Buc-ee's open in the greater metro Atlanta area?  What is your favorite convenience store operator?

Please share your thoughts below  


Anonymous said...

No thanks. I'll pass.

Unknown said...

We love Buc-ees. I have never been in a cleaner friendly environment. When you are traveling they are a sight for sore eyes. Please come to Locust Grove Ga.

Anonymous said...

Meh ... I'll stick with QT

Anonymous said...

Love Buckees. Visited many times near Galveston. I live in Senoia,GA (Coweta County) home of the "Walking Dead". We have a new exit #44 on I-85. This is a growing area. Chick Fila is opening soon and a huge hospital is at this exit. It is in process of getting a large gas station. So hope it's a Buckee's. You will do a great business!!

Anonymous said...

That's nutty. I guess they will all be well outside the metro because the parcels will have to be really big and properties that size close to town are just not affordable.

Unknown said...

Before having gone to Buc-ee's I thought it was ridiculous to have some chipmunk trying to sell gas. I thought it was too big and it just looked horrible. But then my best friend told me she was in love with the Buc-ee's in New Braunfels and couldn't wait to get one in the Metro. Well we got one first. As she told me about that, I told her that one had recently been built in Terrell and that maybe I ought to go check it out. I did; I fell in love with the place. Gas prices are awesome. Restrooms are awesome. The food is awesome. The jerky is awesome. The fudge is awesome. I got my favorite hat there. And the list goes on ... There is now one in Royse City which is about 13 miles from me so it's about 5 miles closer than the Terrell location. It's wonderful that I have the option in my travels to have a Buc-ee's...

Unknown said...

Buc-ees is amazing!! They also pay their employees well. We were excited to see them coming to Florida.

Anonymous said...

How is it pronounced? Bucky's? Byew-cee's? Buh-cee's? Buh... oh I give up.

Anonymous said...

Looks like acres of asphalt. Good for them if they can repurpose abandoned industrial/retail sites by the highways, otherwise say goodbye to more of our trees. And I keep hearing the young folks aren't that into cars.

Unknown said...

Keeps mentioning coming to Atlanta and then lists Livonia, Locust Grove and Villa Rica. These areas are not Atlanta. I don't know of any areas that this concept would work here. Maybe Doraville around Spaghetti junction? No idea..

Unknown said...

Georgia is about get a Texas treasure. You guys will love it and shady small dirty stations will be a thing of the past

Anonymous said...

"Georgia is about get a Texas treasure"


Lee said...

I wonder if they'll tailor the merchandise and food to Georgia tastes. Buc'ees is so uniquely Texan in their branding, I just can't see cowboy hats, Lone Stars, and breakfast tacos going over well with Georgians. I will say they're nicer than QT, but serves a totally different purpose than that store...Locust Grove, Lavonia, Bremen/Villa Rica, Adairsville, Dublin, Tifton, or Valdosta would be perfect locations along the Interstate Highways. I just couldn't envision it any closer to Atlanta. Even the locations that are close to Houston are relatively far from the city itself.

Getting Wawa to open locations in Metro Atlanta would be more realistic and practical, but I don't see Georgia getting Wawa in the near future, unless they're open along the I-95 corridor first to link to their locations in Florida.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone been to those 'Loves' gas stations in Alabama? This sounds like Loves on steroids. But I'm ok with it. Gas stations with lots of stuff and reliably clean bathrooms are still kind of rare and nice to have along the drive.

Anonymous said...

Doraville is not Atlanta. Its Doraville.

Anonymous said...

Unneeded. Unnecessary. Unhealthy for customers, workers, and anyone near gas fumes from 100 pumps and when tanker trucks come by for refilling. Texas is a large state with vast areas of open land. The state has a culture of just making everything bigger and boasting about it. It is dry with few, if any, trees in the outlying areas - like a prairie. Thus, few, if any, trees are cut down to build this. The land is rolling hills/flat so not much land is bulldozed and graded to make it level for this. Georgia is very wooded and hilly. To try to install this in Georgia would require a massive amount of tree cutting. And it is hilly in Georgia so there would a lot of grading/destruction of land and a drainage issue from runoff from the large asphalt surface. Not everything done in one state is suitable in other states. There should be some limit on how much destruction one should do for a retail store/gas pumps. If there is already land that is cleared/vacant, maybe that would be more suitable. But there will always be a concern from all the gas fumes for workers and citizens which is more important.

Anonymous said...

the only texas treasure I want is whataburger.

Anonymous said...

We really don’t need any more stores or pumps for gas. We should start tearing them all down now. Go back to walking across the country and eat weeds and dirt and fruits and seeds. Good enough! And healthier for workers and citizens! No more stores or shoppes!

Anonymous said...

According to defunct Green New Deal - the US will cease to exist in 10-15 years so why bother? This nation is fast approaching 3rd World demographics and we need to stop building and wasting money and resources. The planet is doomed and you people are excited about a paltry convenience store with a beaver as it's spokesperson. This is not progress, this is a regression towards an uncivilized nation.

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