NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas -- Billed as the largest convenience store in the world, Buc-ee's newest store, which opened earlier this year in New Braunfels, Texas, caught the attention of The Wall Street Journal, which featured its story on its front page on Thursday. Notoriously press-shy, owner Arch "Beaver" Aplin came out of his bunker to talk about the site.
The 67,000-square-foot "colossus" on Interstate 35 between Austin and San Antonio is about 20 times the size of most c-stores and longer than a football field. It features 60 gasoline pumps, 80 soda dispensers, 31 cash registers, 23 flavors of fudge and entire aisles devoted to varieties of popcorn and beef jerky.
It also features 84 gleaming toilets, each with its own dispenser of hand sanitizer and shined at all hours by a small army of attendants.
"I wanted to build a facility that was bigger than need be," Aplin said of his creation. "But I have to admit I'm a little nervous. Did I overdo it this time?"
Fans have come to expect excess from Buc-ee's, a 26-store chain whose cartoony mascot is a bucktoothed beaver wearing a baseball cap. The stores stock munchies ranging from pickled quail eggs and chickens stuffed with crawfish jambalaya to trademarked caramel-coated corn puffs known as Beaver Nuggets.
But don't call it a truckstop: 18-wheelers are barred because Aplin says they gum up parking-lot traffic.
Aplin and business partner Don Wasek began building oversize c--stores with beaver branding along the Gulf Coast. But it wasn't until Buc-ee's hit the highway with a stop between Houston and San Antonio a decade ago that the endeavor truly grew to Texas proportions, said the report.
Aplin said he realized the traveling public would drive a little farther for the promise of a "super-scrubbed" restroom, after his decision to splurge on bathrooms won Buc-ee's a cult following.
He also said he learned that travelers were willing to buy more snacks and knickknacks, so long as they are unusual--such as rocks cut in the shape of Texas.
"This here's a straight-up commodity," he told the newspaper, pointing to a bag of Lay's potato chips. "But where else are you going to get camo corn?" he asked, pointing to Buc-ee's camouflage-colored popcorn snacks.
Aplin declines to share how his megastore is doing, or describe his expectations, telling the Journal, "It's impossible to run the numbers on something like this." But he is pulling back a bit: a new location between Houston and Galveston is going to be smaller.
Click here to view the full Wall Street Journal story.
See Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage of Buc-ee's.