HOUSTON—Don’t get on the road between Albert Pickett and his Bucee’s.
As a truck driver who spends his work days on Texas roads, he seeks out his favorite convenience store chain. Ordering a specially prepared panini and pouring himself a huge fountain drink at the League City store Wednesday, he shook his head in open admiration.
“They have the cleanest restrooms in the world,” Pinkett said. “Everywhere I go, if I see a Buccee’s, I’m going to use that restroom.”
Nowadays, you’re more likely to see a Bucee’s than a Dairy Queen on some stretches of Texas highways. Drivers buy bumper stickers bearing the stores’ logo—a cartoon of a smiling beaver wearing a baseball cap – and the catchphrase “Follow me to Bucee’s.”
This is one of those giant retail pit stops where people buy huge, bladder-busting fountain drinks. Julia Cole bought her daughter a massive mug emblazoned with a logo that made her eligible for cheap refills of Icees. Her daughter Beatrice, who’s only two years old, carries a plastic cup almost the size of her tiny torso.
“Yeah, it’s pretty big,” she said. “It’s the largest one they sell in the store.”
With 19 outlets strategically positioned mostly around the Gulf Coast, the convenience store chain based in Lake Jackson has developed an oddly loyal following of drivers who openly admire the stores’ cleanliness, friendliness, specialty sandwiches, giant fountain drinks and—more than anything else—spotless bathrooms.
So when rumors began circulating that Texas City was about to become home to the biggest Bucee’s in the world, Mayor Matt Doyle’s phone started ringing. He had tried to keep the deal under wraps just in case it fell apart, but word leaked out.
“Well, in Texas City, 60,000 square feet is a big old deal,” Doyle said. “So we’re glad to have them coming.”
The new store, to be built next to the new Tanger Outlet Mall under construction near the Holland Road interchange with the Gulf Freeway, is expected to draw about 5,000 visitors a day, the mayor said. The two new attractions are expected to entice about 5,000,000 drivers a year to jump off the freeway on the road to Galveston.
Those estimates prompted officials to offer Bucee’s a deal unprecedented in Texas City history. If the store meets its job projections and other financial goals, the city will give Bucee’s a portion of the sales-tax revenue collected at the new store.
In exchange for the sales-tax deal, Bucee’s promises to build a 60,000-square-foot store adjacent to the new outlet mall and create at least 150 full-time jobs.
Other Texas cities have cut similar deals with major retailers. These so-called 380 agreements have sometimes triggered controversy, like the protests prompted by a deal offered to Kroger’s for building a new supermarket on Studemont. But Doyle hadn’t heard any objections on the day city council considered the Bucee’s agreement.
Small wonder. Last May, when Bucee’s opened what’s currently its largest store in New Braunfels, a newspaper account touting it as “the greatest gas station in the world” estimated about 100 fans were waiting outside.
“It’s cultish,” Doyle said. “It’s amazing how many people hunt it out. I have not been in a lot of Buccee’s, but when you go in them, you certainly understand.”
The mayor said store executives told him they hoped to open by next Memorial Day.
“But that’s going to be the biggest one in the world?” Pickett asked. “Yeah, I’ll make sure I stop by.”