When one thinks of convenience stores, they often envision small outlets near gas stations, stocked with basic snacks, beverages, and perhaps a few essentials for travelers. But there exists a convenience store chain that not only shatters this perception but has also cultivated a fanatical following for its larger-than-life offerings. That chain is Buc-ee’s. Buc-ee’s stores are BIG! But the biggest one of all (at least as of the time of this writing)? Write here in Sevier County, Tennessee!
A Historical Glimpse
The inception of Buc-ee’s traces back to 1982 when Don Wasek and Arch “Beaver” Aplin III opened the first Buc-ee’s store in Lake Jackson, Texas. With the image of a beaver donning a baseball cap, this duo envisioned a different kind of convenience store. From a single store, Buc-ee’s has grown exponentially over the years, boasting more than 30 locations by 2021, primarily in Texas, but also venturing into states like Alabama, Florida, and most recently, Tennessee.
A Unique Experience
Stepping into a Buc-ee’s is an experience in itself. Its massive size, with some stores spanning over 60,000 square feet, can rival that of some grocery stores. Yet, despite its size, what sets Buc-ee’s apart is not merely its vastness but the plethora of products and services it offers and the culture it has cultivated.
- Cleanliness: One of the hallmarks of Buc-ee’s is its impeccably clean restrooms. They pride themselves on this aspect so much that they’ve been recognized for having the cleanest restrooms in America. It’s not just about hygiene, but also the spaciousness and the number of facilities available, ensuring travelers never have to wait.
- Diverse Range of Products: Beyond the typical soda, chips, and candy, Buc-ee’s is a haven for food lovers. There are the in-house prepared meals, freshly made sandwiches, bakery items, beef jerky in a myriad of flavors, roasted nuts, and the list goes on. One must not forget the Beaver Nuggets, a Buc-ee’s staple, which are caramel-coated corn puffs that have a unique taste and texture, often compared to the cross between caramel popcorn and Cap’n Crunch cereal.
- Souvenirs and More: Beyond edibles, Buc-ee’s offers a vast range of products, from Buc-ee’s branded merchandise like shirts and caps to home decor, gardening tools, camping gear, and even jewelry and high end sunglasses. It’s like a mini-mall under the guise of a convenience store.
- Fueling Stations: Buc-ee’s doesn’t just limit itself to human travelers. Vehicles get treated too. With gas pumps that can number over 100 at some locations, waiting for a refueling spot is never an issue.
An Immersive Cultural Experience
At its core, Buc-ee’s reflects Texan culture and pride. While it has become a destination spot for many road trippers, its true essence can be found in the loyalty of Texans who embrace it as a symbol of their state’s larger-than-life spirit.
- Employment Ethics: Buc-ee’s stands out for its employment practices. The company provides its employees with above-average wages, full benefits, and 401(k) plans, a rarity in the convenience store industry.
- Advertisements: It’s hard to miss Buc-ee’s billboards. They tease travelers with humor and promises of clean bathrooms and delicious snacks, becoming a part of the store’s charm and appeal.
- Embracing the Local: Buc-ee’s doesn’t just offer any products; many of them resonate with the local flavors and tastes of Texas and the local market where a particular Buc-ee’s is located.
A Staple in Modern Americana
As Buc-ee’s continues its expansion beyond Texas, it carries with it a model of how a convenience store can be so much more than just a pit stop. With its combination of clean facilities, wide-ranging products, ethical employment practices, and a distinctive cultural touch, Buc-ee’s has cemented its place not just as a store, but as an American cultural icon.
If you are driving into Sevier County, it is almost an imperative to stop by and immerse oneself in this phenomenon. Whether you’re grabbing a bag of Beaver Nuggets, filling up your gas tank, or just stretching your legs, a visit to Buc-ee’s is a treat to the senses and a testament to what convenience stores can aspire to be.
Word of caution: you will need to be patient. The Sevierville Buc-ee’s is attracting very large crowds, so you will have to accept waiting in line a bit to navigate into the parking lot. Once you’re there, however, it’s all Buc-ee’s fun. There is a ton of stuff to see, and with many fast moving lines of cashiers, it is easy to get in and out of the store.
Buc-ee’s is located on its own street, Buc-ee’s Blvd, right off of the Kodak, Tennessee I-40 exit.