Buc-ee’s growth outside Texas continues with its first Wisconsin store and a third set for Florida

Photo of Richard Webner
Buc-ee's opened its first travel station outside the state of Texas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, off of Interstate 10 at the Baldwin Beach Express near Loxley, Alabama.

Buc-ee's opened its first travel station outside the state of Texas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, off of Interstate 10 at the Baldwin Beach Express near Loxley, Alabama.

John Sharp/AL.com

Buc-ee’s is working to spread its empire close to Disney World and into the northern reaches of the Midwest with plans to open its first travel centers in central Florida and Wisconsin.

Commissioners in Florida’s Marion County last week unanimously approved a zoning change clearing the way for Buc-ee’s to build the center on 32.8 acres of ranchland along Interstate 75 in Ocala, about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, according to a report from WUSF Public Media, a radio news station.

The center will include an 80,000-square-foot store with 120 fuel stations and a 125-foot sign, according to the report.

“Each commissioner expressed their desire to be first in line for a brisket sandwich,” the report says.

On ExpressNews.com: 'Not for the faint-of-teeth': Buc-ee's Beaver Nuggets are Texas' best snack, magazine says

The Ocala fuel center will be the third Buc-ee’s in Florida after the Lake Jackson-based chain opened locations in St. Augustine and Daytona Beach — both on Florida’s east coast — in 2021.

Also last week, Buc-ee’s Real Estate Director Stan Beard introduced plans to the DeForest Village Board in DeForest — north of Madison, Wisconsin — to build a 74,000 square-foot travel center with 120 fueling stations, 613 parking spaces and 20 electric vehicle charging stations, according to the DeForest Times-Tribune.

The travel center would be Buc-ee’s first in Wisconsin. Of note at the meeting, according to the report, were questions about the mega-store poaching customers from other local businesses. Beard pushed back, saying that people know they are stopping at a Buc-ee’s when they are 200 miles away, “[knowing] that they are going to a Buc-ee’s before they get in the car.”

His statements evoked what this writer has noted, at great length, about the appeal of Buc-ee’s: it is essentially a mini-mall for both locals and tourists.

“If you want a can of Copenhagen and a Diet Coke fast, you’re not going to go to Buc-ee’s,” Beard said, also telling members of the board that Buc-ee’s was neither a truck stop nor a convenience store.

On ExpressNews.com: Fun facts about the Buc-ee's beaver logo

Improvements needed to the area around the store are subject to approval by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Dane County, and the Village of DeForest before Buc-ee’s can begin its northern takeover. But according to the story in the Times-Tribune, several board members are already “very excited” about the prospect.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said he’s a fan of Buc-ee’s, praising the chain for having “the cleaning bathrooms you’ve ever seen in your life.” In March 2021, he attended the grand opening of the travel center in Daytona Beach, calling Buc-ee’s the “Shangri-La” of service stations.

Buc-ee’s is growing fast: The chain is also working on new locations in Colorado and Missouri. In January, it celebrated the start of construction on a fourth store along Interstate 35 in Hillsboro, and it is expected to break ground in March on a much-anticipated store in Amarillo. The chain is also adding a $6 million car wash to its largest travel center in New Braunfels.

The chain was founded in Texas in 1982 and began spreading to other states in 2019. As of late last year, it operated 35 stores in Texas and nine in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.