How Buc-ee’s Built A Multimillion Dollar Empire Promoting It’s…Bathrooms?

All Buc-ee's locations

We recently embarked on a road trip to visit my brother who lives outside of Atlanta.  A 6.5 hour drive from our place in Tennessee to him in Georgia, made for a nice family bonding event. 

We tried in vain to avoid spending the entire 6.5 hours in solitude affixed to our devices.  Instead we played the ‘counting out of state license plates’ game, ‘I Spy’ and ‘Hypotheticals’ to pass monotonous windshield time.  

But frankly, the games didn’t last long before my 12 year old succumbed to pre-teen boredom.

Buc-ee’s; 100 gas pumps and one friendly beaver

As our wheels turned clockwise toward the home of Coca-Cola, and the gas needle inched closer to ‘E’, we kept an eye out for any upcoming gas stations we may recognize.  We preferred the ‘well-lit’ kind, such as Pilot’s or Love’s, but didn’t want to press our luck as we marched closer and closer to ‘E’.

We saw a sign that said Buc-ee’s 5 miles ahead.  At the time we were unfamiliar with what a Buc-ee’s was, but realized we better stop, since we didn’t know when the next station would be. 

With each passing mile a new sign appeared:

“Never drive on an empty stomach’ 

“If it harms Beavers, we’re against it”

“Restrooms so clean we leave mints in the Urinals’

We thought, geez, they were really marketing this gas station, it must be something special.  Heck, it made me think I was back in South Dakota being bombarded with ‘Wall Drug’ signs or something. 

But, the marketing worked, because it really peaked our interest.  We concluded; we had to to see what this Buc-ee’s thing was all about.

The Buc’ee’s in Calhoun, Georgia

As we exited I-75 in Calhoun, Georgia, we made it to the bottom of the exit ramp, then stopped.  In front of us was a serpentine of tail lights waiting for an open spot at the gas pumps.  It was literally bumper to bumper for 15 minutes just to get into the Buc-ee’s parking lot, and they have at least 100 gas pumps!   

As we waited our turn for a spot on the massive Buc-ee’s tarmac, we were in awe by the sheer number of gas pumps.  Each pump was well-lit, full of windshield washer fluid and paper towels, and without one iota of trash anywhere to be found except in its proper place, the trash can. 

We could only imagine what the inside of the store looked like, since the outside was this impressive!  My wife and daughter ran inside and left me to fill the car up, as their anticipation got the best of them.  The oversized Buc-ee Beaver sign with his cursory buck teeth and red ball cap, was ‘directing’ them inside.

Come to find out this Buc-ee’s in Calhoun, Ga. was the companies 37th convenience store.  And, in case you’re wondering, here are all the Buc-ee’s locations:

All Buc-ee's locations

And, if you hadn’t heard, Buc-ee’s has actually earned a few world records too:

  • World’s Largest Convenience Store with an astounding 66,335 square feet.
  • World’s Longest Car Wash with 255 feet of conveyer.  No chance your car won’t be clean after that much washing!

Like I said, the gas pumps were tidy and well stocked, but the outside pales in comparison to the inside of this gas station.  And, by the way ‘Gas station’ is really not an accurate term to describe Buc-ee’s.  I feel like I’m doing Buc-ee’s a dis-service by calling it a ‘gas station’, a more apt term would be: The Taj Mahal of Petroleum Dispensaries.  Shame on me!

The Bathrooms at Buc-ees

Their restrooms are so clean you could eat off the floor, though I don’t necessarily recommend it. 

Here is what a billboard in Texas read about the bathrooms at Buc-ee’s

“Your Throne Awaits. Fabulous Restrooms–32 miles.”

And, the bathrooms at the Buc-ee’s in Calhoun, Georgia didn’t disappoint.  Their stalls were something out of a a five-star resort (at least from what I’ve heard), and the door, let me tell you, the door actually goes all the way to the floor.

Bathroom Privacy is also a trait Buc-ee’s takes pride in.

Outside the bathroom, we marveled at the fine Beaver Merchandise; the T-shirts, books, and of course the ‘fan- favorite’; the Beaver ‘Onesie’.  Buc-ee's Calhoun Georgia

The aroma of fresh made Breakfast Taco’s and Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets subliminally convinced us that our wallet was too heavy.  We lightened it by buying one of each.

Who created the Buc-ee’s enterprise?

As someone who’s fascinated with entrepreneurialism and small business growth, I had to learn more about how Buc-ee’s got started, and about it’s rise to prominence.

Well, way back in 1982, if you can believe that, Arch Aplin III and Don Wasek had a vision of:

‘You can get a lot of people to pull off the highway and spend money if you guarantee them an immaculate place in which to heed the call of nature’.

Sounds to me, like they built this massive enterprise around- of all things, ‘the bathroom break’.  Quite genius if you ask me!  Sell them stuff while they wait for Aunt Ester to do her business in a 5-star bathroom stall!

The owners targeted an affluent market segment- generally those willing to drop $44.99 for a silly Beaver Onesie.   And no, Buc-ee’s does not discount their merchandise, and they sell an abundance of their own private-label merchandise.

Here is a great post, if you’d like to learn more about the Buc-ee’s founders.

So, if you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting a Buc-ee’s yet, it’s worth loading up the Woody-Wagon with the kids and Aunt Ester and taking a road-trip to the nearest location.  Or, even better, planning your next road trip around a stop at Buc-ee’s.  

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