Buc-ee’s convenience store sits outside Athens, Alabama, like a giant squatting beaver.
This Texas-based gas station place is not a mere gas station. Buc-ee’s is a dwarf planet. You’re looking at Six Flags Over Circle K.
And the place is packed today.
“We’re packed every day,” says an older employee wearing a cowboy hat. “Every day is like a Who concert in here.”
If you go to Buc-ee’s, be prepared to wait in a line of traffic. There are 120 gas pumps jammed full of SUVs, compact cars and oversized trucks. They come from all over. The license plates read Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, Vermont, and Alaska.
Walking into the store is like going into an Alan Jackson concert, only less organized. We’re talking 53,470 square-feet of commercial retail space. You see people from all walks. Rich and poor. Old and young. Yoga pants and partial nudity.
They have everything here.
Buc-ee’s features a Texas-style barbecue pit with line cooks wearing cattleman hats. The brisket is good. The employees call you Sugar, which is sweet, but also weird inasmuch as some of the employees are old enough to be your great-grandchildren.
The food is good. They roast nuts here. Try the cinnamon glazed pecans, they taste like licking the throne of the risen Savior.
They have fudge in every shape, color, and political party. The mint-fudge has been legally classified as a narcotic in three states.
Buc-ee’s serves banana pudding, which isn’t bad. They have ghost pepper jerky that will utterly ruin your bowels.
They sell baby onesies, vape pens, barbecue grills, deer feed, machetes, fishing kayaks, and tactical helicopters. There is a wall of beer.
Also, Buc-ee’s sells the kind of crafty merchandise you’d find in a Hobby Lobby. There are American-flag cutting boards, for example. They sell bejeweled steer-head skulls. There are Buc-ee’s underpants.
I see a bumper sticker reading, “I bet Jesus would have used HIS turn signals.”
I find myself falling under the impulse-buying spell when, on a whim, I purchase an arts-and-crafts plaque that reads, “Alcohol—because no great story ever started with someone eating salad.”
But nothing—and I mean nothing—compares to the world-famous restrooms.
Walking into a Buc-ee’s restroom is a lot like visiting the Vatican for the first time. You’re not ready for the emotions. They hit you all at once. You might cry a little.
You walk into a surgically clean bathroom. Bright lights. Shiny floors. This is a room sterilized so thoroughly you could eat supper off the toilet seats.
Employees are mopping. Reba is singing overhead to help you relax your urethral sphincters. And the whole place smells like warm apple-pie sanitizer.
“How often do you clean these bathrooms?” you ask an employee who is scrubbing a latrine beside yours.
“I don’t ever stop cleaning this bathroom,” he says, elbow deep in a urinal. “Cleaning toilets is my full-time job.”
“God bless you,” you say.
“Same to you, sir.”
In the store, I poll a few customers. I’m asking people how they feel about Buc-ee’s country store. The reactions are downright passionate.
“I freaking love Buc-ee’s,” says one college-age girl. “I come here all the time. Coming to Buc-ee’s just relaxes me.”
“This place put Athens on the map,” remarks a young 21-year-old. “Before Buc-ee’s, we had like 27,000 people in Athens.”
I ask the man how many people Athens has now.
“Well, we still have 27,000, but now we have a Buc-ee’s, too.”
I meet a woman and her husband from Llano County, Texas. They claim to have visited nearly every Buc-ee’s in the nation.
The wife has iPhone pictures to prove it. They’ve been to Buc-ee’s in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Virgina.
“Only ones we ain’t been to is the Buc-ee’s in Wisconsin and Colorado.”
As I walk out of the Buc-ees, I am greeted by six young men dressed in beaver costumes. They are from west Michigan. We get our picture together.
These young men have dressed in beaver costumes because this is their first visit Buc-ee’s. To say they are excited is like saying Mother Theresa was an okay person.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life to come to Buc-ee’s,” says one giddy young man.
“Your whole life?” I say. Then I ask how old he is.
Before I get into my vehicle, I see a young mother helping a little girl into a car. The girl is using a wheelchair, wearing a T-shirt with a Buc-ee’s logo.
“This was our third time coming to Buc-ee’s,” the mother tells me.
“How did you like it?” I ask.
“We love it here,” the girl replies.
“We are always looking for positive energy,” the mother says. “And inside Buc-ee’s everyone is always so happy.”
“When you have spina bifida,” the girl says, “you need to be around happy people.”
I ask if they’ll be coming back.
“Will we?” says the mother. “Have you seen those toilets?”
julieannhall - March 24, 2023 1:10 pm
My husband was able to stop at Buc-ee’s before I was. It made me a little jealous. Thank you for writing this hilariously true account of a Buc-ee’s experience. Six Flags over Circle K – I’m dead!! And yes, Jesus would have used them, maybe. He did like to tick off the authorities.
Beckybelle - March 24, 2023 1:46 pm
The one by Leeds, AL is deadly…. across from Bass Pro AND the outlet mall. Perfect trifecta (and a deflated bank account).
Phil - March 24, 2023 3:45 pm
Hey Sean ! I just love the Leeds, Al store. Next time you go there you have to purchase the Nick Cannon big assbrick of soap. The soap comes in a big 10 oz. Bar so for heaven’s sake dont drop it on your foot! I gave my dad some of that soap and he sawed the bar in half for ease of comfort.The soap is not made in France but in the USA,made by vetrans and a portion of the proceeds goes to vetran causes. I like the fresh cut pine version it makes your bathroom smell awesome! On another note my wife (nick named Birdie) and I enjoyed meeting you and Jamie in Trussville recently.
Debra Palmer Little - March 24, 2023 4:13 pm
Had my first Buc-ee’s experience last month. My life will never be the same! Sean, your article nailed it! Love your writing!
H. J. Patterson - March 24, 2023 6:18 pm
Auburn, AL gets on the Buc-ee’s map very soon.
Ronna Novello - March 25, 2023 12:47 am
Our son and daughter in law moved to Houston. On my first visit, the place they were most excited to take me was Buc-ees on the way to Galveston. This Ohio girl was struck speechless. Your description is spot on. Sean, thank you for all your columns. They make me laugh, cry and always make my day.’
GERALD WAYNE ALBANO - March 25, 2023 8:26 pm
GREAT STORE TO GO TO.JERRY ALBANDECATUR.BEEN TO STORES IN TEXAS ALOT. DROVE TRUCK FOR A LIVING. MY EMAIL IS JERRYALBANO2GMAIL.COM
Jacob Stevens - March 25, 2023 10:59 pm
When they open
Rosalyn Dorfman - March 26, 2023 2:57 am
I live in dayton beach ⛱️ FL. My house mate works at the local buc ees. He raves about it. I definitely want to visit the one here. These comments made above make me want to visit ALL OF THEM! There is a new one opening in OCALA. FL. Keep up the good vibes! You are all AMAZING!
CRivera - March 26, 2023 4:23 am
When will Bucce’s come to Pennsylvania
Joyce Gilkey - March 26, 2023 6:19 pm
Very apt description- Six Flags over Circle K!! I have only been to the Wharton, Tx Buc-ees. I heard they had built one in Richmond, Ky after I moved to Texas. They built a lot of businesses after I moved to Tx. I hope to meet you once before my life is finished.
Janna - March 27, 2023 3:39 am
You should have tried the beef jerky!!!! omg…..It’s the best you’ll ever eat. We have one here in Georgia that I drive 2 hours to go get my beef Jerry fix. And the cinnamon glazed pecans, cashews are to die for!!!
Sheila - March 29, 2023 10:51 am
The woman with the pictures on her phone to prove how many Buc-ee’s she’s been to could not have pictures of up-and-running Buc-ee’s in Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Virgina. Nor will she be able to get pictures of stores in Colorado or Wisconsin anytime soon. Stores for those states have been announced, but none of them is open yet.
Thea Smith - March 29, 2023 12:52 pm
We need a Bucce’s in Central Jersey!!!
Judy Horne - March 29, 2023 1:33 pm
When will they put one in North Carolina?
Will it be Charlotte, the Mountains or the Coast. I’m waiting!!!!