I live in the land of Wawa—that’s Pennsylvania, for those who didn’t watch Mare of Easttown—so imagine my surprise when I pulled into the newly opened Buc-ee’s in Florence, South Carolina midway through a long drive home from a family visit. I’d never stopped at the Texas-based chain before, but from my limited knowledge of the Lone Star State, Buc-ee’s seemed to embody its spirit: big, loud, and proud.
Each location is roughly the size of a football field, inviting weary drivers to revive themselves with freshly made brisket sandwiches and refuel at one of the hundred-plus has pumps. Brightly colored merch is everywhere on site, most featuring Buc-ee’s mascot Bucky the Beaver.
Buc-ee’s was founded in 1982, and for most of its history, the chain never crept out of Texas. But in 2018, Buc-ee’s broke ground on its very first store outside the state, a 50,000-square-foot Travel Center in Baldwin County, Alabama. Then, it added another Alabama location. Then one in Georgia, then another in Georgia, then even more in Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida. By 2024, there might even be a Buc-ee’s in Colorado.
Here are all the reasons to get excited about the great Buc-ee’s takeover of the 2020s.
Buc-ee’s has really, really clean bathrooms
Picture this: You’ve been driving for four hours straight. You downed a 24-oz. coffee to keep you focused on the road. You’re so close to your destination, but your bladder beckons for immediate relief. So you pull off at the next exit to the awaiting highway-adjacent convenience store, knowing that an unsanitary experience awaits you. After wiping down a wet toilet seat and smashing the tragically empty soap dispenser over and over, you realize you’ve made a terrible mistake.
That kind of thing doesn’t happen at Buc-ee’s, which earned the title of America’s Best Restroom from Cintas in 2012. And yes, that’s a real award.
“The bathrooms are cleaned constantly,” Buc-ee’s food and beverage director Kraig Junck told Eater in 2017. “We have dedicated people employed daily to make sure that we are keeping everything clean.”
Buc-ee’s offers diverse food and beverage choices
On my first Buc-ee’s trip, I was overwhelmed by the paradox of choice. I went in thinking that if I limited myself to three items—an entree, a snack, and a dessert—then I would have no problem grabbing my food and going on my way.
But then I saw barbecue. And the fudge. And the tacos, burritos, banana pudding, candied nuts, sandwiches, beef jerky, and kolaches. I was also tempted by the brand’s signature Beaver Nuggets, crispy corn puffs coated in a caramel brown sugar glaze.
Ultimately, I landed on a brisket sandwich, the Beaver Nuggets, and some chocolate chip cookies. And if selecting snacks wasn’t hard enough, the three dozen fountain drink options made my head spin. I opted for a kombucha from the beverage cooler—I know, I know, I should have slurped down Buc-ee’s signature blue cream soda instead.
All this might sound like a knock on Buc-ee’s. It’s not. I was trying to squeeze the entire experience into a single trip. If there were a Buc-ee’s local to Philadelphia, I don’t think I’d ever tire of the place. There’s always some new entree to explore or a Buc-ee’s branded snack gem hiding on some shelf in a back corner. (On this visit, my diamond in the rough was Cosmic Pops.)
Buc-ee’s pays above minimum wage
In a world where minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Buc-ee’s was hiring for a number of positions. Indeed, photos of its hiring signs frequently go viral on Reddit because no one expects a convenience store chain to pay such wages.
Roles for cashiers, stockers, maintenance workers, warehouse employees, and gift shop staff start at $16 per hour, well above the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25. And according to its hiring sign, Buc-ee’s provides three weeks paid vacation, 401k options, and healthcare benefits. With management positions paying well into the six figures, let’s just say I’m considering a career change.
These Travel Centers also contribute sizable tax benefits to the communities in which they’re based. In the economic proposals for the location planned for Efland Station, North Carolina, the county’s economic development board estimated that if Buc-ee’s hit its yearly sales goals, the county stood to earn $1,034,660 in annual tax revenue. Unfortunately, that location never made it past the development phase, but it’s an interesting example of what the arrival of a single outlet can do.
Shaq loves Buc-ee’s
“Listen, Buc-ees is my second favorite store,” Shaquille O’Neal told Real Money in 2021. “I’m telling you, I love Buc-ees.”
Well Shaq, get ready: There are now almost 50 Buc-ee’s nationwide, and they just keep coming. But it might be some years before the brand stretches beyond a small cluster of states. Here are brand’s plans for future locations, according to the Buc-ee’s contact form:
- Auburn, Alabama 2023
- Sevierville, Tennessee 2023
- Hillsboro, Texas 2024
- Smiths Grove, Kentucky 2024
- Springfield, Missouri 2024
- Johnstown, Colorado 2024
- Boerne, Texas 2025
If I want to stock up on brisket, I’ll have to take quite a road trip. I’m not ready for that kind of commitment yet, Buc-ee’s. But until you’re ready to spread your wings, I guess I’m sticking to Wawa for now.