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.

Visualize this:

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 Virginia.

“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?”

Case closed.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.