A Sheetz marries a Tractor Supply, and they give birth to two babies: Cracker Barrel and Hobby Lobby — but only the folksy home décor and casual-clothing parts of the stores.
Add in Texas-style brisket sandwiches in sizes such as XXL, a beef jerky bar, house-made fudge, kolaches and jalapeño-stuffed pastries; more road snacks than you can count; a massive filling station with discount gasoline prices; electric vehicle chargers; and the cleanest restrooms off the interstate that double as art galleries.
And now you’ve got a formula for a bona-fide success story with the buzz to match: Buc-ee’s.
The first store opened in Texas in 1982 with a pair of visionaries, Arch “Beaver” Aplin III and Don Wasek, at the helm. In 2019, they decided to expand in the South. Now they are spreading like wildfire with 44 locations. There are none in North Carolina — yet.
So, on a recent Tuesday we’re in Florence, South Carolina, just off Interstate 95 at North Williston Road. It’s about 90 miles from Fayetteville. Like a beacon in the distance, we spot the happy, snaggle-tooth beaver mascot on a behemoth building that’s been packing them in 24/7 since May 2022. We luck out and find a parking space right up front.
The people-watching possibilities are instantly primo, and the energy is electric. Folks are arriving as eager as, well, the beaver that adorns everything — on signage, packaging, T-shirts, tote bags, cups, baseball caps, you name it.
Before taking the adventure inside, we check out meticulous displays of outdoor grills, fire pits and deer feeders. There are also big coolers of bagged ice all in a row and 120 gas pumps (about 5 to 10 cents cheaper per gallon than we saw on the highway). Well-placed sandwich boards declare that working for the beaver also pays well: from $18 an hour for cashiers and grocery stockers to $150,000 to $225,000 annually for general managers.
What you don’t see are 18-wheelers. Not allowed. This is not a truck stop, but a “family-focused” attraction, according to company policy.
As we head inside, the excitement builds. We’re welcomed by a smiling, red-shirted associate named Star (for real). First impression: This place is cool — all 53,000 square feet of it.
As we hit the snack and candy aisles, top of our list are bags of Beaver Nuggets. Think of the Sugar Pops cereal you may have eaten as a kid, except a little bigger, crunchier and almost U-shaped. Yogurt-covered granola, chocolate-covered nuts and other assorted goodies, all moderately priced, get tossed into the red buggy.
Although we see walls and several displays of packaged jerky, we head over to peruse the jerky bar, set up like a deli case with clear compartments that allow you to eyeball the long strips of awesome meat magic. We pick about a pound each of the teriyaki, Korean BBQ, and cherry maple, the chewy deliciousness to be enjoyed over the coming week.
Next stop: Texas Round Up. Guys and gals in yellow cowboy hats are focused on cooking and chopping behind clear partitions. Beef brisket, sausage, turkey and pulled pork are for sandwiches, and to-go bundles are dispersed. The Sweets section is also nearby, with sugared nuts, Dippin’ Dots ice cream, and several varieties of fudge. We forego the sweet stuff and head straight for the brisket sandwiches ($12.99 for an XXL) and homemade potato chips, which we devour back in the car because we don’t see any dining areas inside.
After our “car picnic,” it’s back inside to tackle the homey parts of the store — from kitschy chicken figurines to dish towels with cute sayings, soaps, candles and a lot more.
There’s something interesting around every corner. Anyone who has spent time in South Carolina knows that two college sports teams dominate here, and the fans are out in full force for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers. As an alum of the former, you can guess which clothing and swag I preferred. (Sorry/not sorry, Tigers.)
We are officially “browsers.” We end up whiling away a couple of hours at Buc-ee’s and spend just upward of 100 bucks. Most of that is beef jerky and Beaver Nuggets.
Now, to answer the $64,000 question: Does Buc-ee’s really live up to all the hype in the press, on TV and social media, and, of course, brisk word of mouth? The answer is a resounding “YEEE-HAWWWW!”
Find Buc-ee’s at 3390 N. Williston Road off Interstate 95 in Florence, South Carolina.
The family-friendly attraction is open 24/7. https://buc-ees.com/