They say everything is bigger and better in Texas, and one convenience store takes this motto—66, 335 square feet of space—seriously.
Across Texas, the site of friendly Bucky the beaver means a must-stop detour through the aisles and aisles of goodies, from beaver nuggets to 20-plus options of beef jerky.
The cult favorite is more than just a convenience store and travel spot. The store, with its world records and extremely clean restrooms, has become an undeniable rite of passage when becoming a Texan.
If you bypass gas stations because you're waiting to stop at Buc-ee's instead, you're definitely from Texas.— Texas Humor (@Texas Humor) 1498525320.0
So why is it that Texans love Buc-ee's so much?
It could be the friendly smile of Bucky the mascot, the smell of candied pecans, the variety of fun treats and merch. Or maybe, it's that it has the cleanest restrooms. It's hard to say how exactly Buc-ee's stole the heart of millions.
The first Buc-ee's opened in 1982 in Lake Jackson by co-founders Don Wasek and Arch "Beaver" Aplin. Bucky, the beaver mascot, was named by Aplin after combining his childhood nickname Beaver, the name of his Labrador Retriever Buck, and a mascot from Ipana, a toothpaste manufacturer in the 50s named Bucky the beaver.
Since then, Buc-ee's has expanded to 32 locations throughout Texas and has even delighted folks in Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and soon Kentucky and North Carolina with its out-of-state locations.
Martin Loya, general manager at the New Braunfels Buc-ee's, worked as a store director at Academy Sports + Outdoors for 16 years before switching over to the beaver side. Loya said he was not having as much fun at his last job as he does at the New Braunfels store, where customers from all over the country come in excited to be in the iconic store.
"This is a great company," Loya said. "The pay is great, there are benefits straight off the bat. We are the Disney of convenience stores."
Although locals make it a habit to visit the New Braunfels Buc-ee's location, Loya said he sees more tourists visiting the store. Recently, a large group touring all the Buc-ee's locations stopped at the New Braunfels store to take photos and tour it.
Tour of the World's Largest Gas Station and Convenience Store | Buc-ee's in New Braunfels, Texas
From miles away, the quirky, yellow billboards entice you to make a stop. Whether you're in dire need of a bathroom stop, filling up your tank or needing some grub, Buc-ee's is the homeland for all the things you didn't know you needed or wanted—all 24 hours of the day.
And, it's all too familiar of an experience to make a "quick stop" and spend hours perusing the store like a kid in a candy store. But some don't kid themselves and make it a planned stop on their trip across the great state.
Alexis and Gabe Jones made a much-anticipated stop at the New Braunfels Buc-ee's after visiting family in Central Texas. "I love Bucee's!" Alexis said, very excited to be visiting the beaver store.
The couple, who live in Idaho, left the snow and cold for sunny and warm weather and of course, Bucky the beaver. Alexis, who has been a big fan of the mascot and all things Bucee's, said she loves how massive and unique the convenience store is.
Gabe, who had first heard of Buc-ee's from Alexis and an unknown beaver keychain, did not understand the "hype," but found he enjoyed his first time visiting the store. From buying fresh foods to memorabilia and souvenirs, the couple left the store feeling accomplished and in the good ol' Buc-ee's spirit.
Gabe and Alexis Jones at Buc-ee's in New Braunfels. (Isabella Lopes/Austonia)
"It's like a mall," Gabe said. "There's Hobby Lobby over here, Walmart over there and everything else there. I recommend everyone to visit Buc-ee's."
To top off the love and support Texans and newcomers hold for Buc-ee's, the convenience store holds two world records that puts it on the international map. The New Braunfels Buc-ee's location holds the title of the world's largest convenience store at 66,335 square feet with over 1,000 parking spots and 120 gas pumps. And any Texan who has driven through I-10 has seen the world's largest car wash in Katy with 225 feet of conveyor, the car wash is more of a playland for cars and has all kinds of scrubbers, different washes and multi-colored foam.
As the perfect place for all travelers, Texans are lucky they don't have to be traveling to visit a Buc-ee's near them.
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A $500 million mixed-use development spanning 1,400 acres is coming to Southeast Austin, near Tesla’s headquarters at Giga Texas.
Plans for the development by Houston-based real estate firm Hines include 2,500 houses along with multi-family and townhomes, and commercial land. Hines is partnering with Trez Capital, Sumitomo Forestry and Texas-based Caravel Ventures.
The development, which is known as Mirador, will be located off the 130 Toll and Highway 71, which the developers say provides easy access to the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 racetrack and other Austin attractions like restaurants, parks and live music venues.
Hines also boasts amenities like a 60-acre lake, over 600 acres of greenbelt, community parks, trails and a swimming pool.
“As Austin continues to grow into the tech epicenter of Texas, coupled with a supply-constrained market, the demand for new housing is at its highest,” Dustin Davidson, managing director at Hines, said. “Mirador will be critical in providing more options for Austin’s growing population and we are excited to work alongside our partners given they each provide a unique and valued perspective in single-family development.”
The local housing market has been hot in recent years, with home sales accelerating earlier in the pandemic. In July 2021, the Austin metro area hit its pricing peak at $478,000. As Austonia previously reported, the area has been expected to see the Tesla effect, with the new workforce driving up demand for housing and other services.
The single-family houses are expected to be developed over the course of six years, in phases. Construction on the homes is expected to start this year and home sales will begin in 2023.
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Editor's note: This story summarizes Sports Illustrated's story detailing Michael Center's involvement in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, based on interviews with SI's Jon Wertheim. Additionally, Austonia received comments from Michael Center, included in this story.
Confined to his couch, former Longhorns tennis coach Michael Center praised his players via FaceTime after the program he built produced the Longhorns’ first national championship in 2019—a bittersweet moment as Center faced federal charges as part of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal.
His name dragged through the mud, Center was fired, arrested by the FBI and sentenced to six months in a Central Texas federal prison after pleading guilty to two charges related to mail fraud. And over a year after his release, Center told Sports Illustrated he doubts he was the only one in burnt orange involved.
When the Varsity Blues scandal broke out to the public in 2019, the investigation was a perfect storm for nationwide attention: Hollywood glamour, blue blood conspiracy and faith in the tried-and-true American education system came to a head as 33 movie stars and other elites were found guilty of paying more than $25 million to pave their children’s way into eight colleges, including the University of Texas.
UT was one of eight schools caught in the college admissions scandal. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The figure behind Varsity Blues, “college consultant” Rick Singer, would plead guilty to four felony counts for faking SAT scores and bribing coaches at prominent universities for his elite clients—but not before throwing Center under the bus.
Singer's client, private equity executive Chris Schaepe, was looking for a way to bend UT's tight admissions policies for his son, who was seeking a position oddly as a manager on UT’s basketball team. Through a middleman, Singer contacted Center, who eventually agreed.
Schaepe's son hadn't played tennis since his freshman year of high school. It was a detail that Center says passed through plenty of hands before he was admitted, including "academic support staff, the compliance office, the sports supervisor and, ultimately, the athletic director," SI's Jon Wertheim writes.
No one in the entire athletic department, including seven "risk management and compliant services department" employees, was named, implicated or punished. After an internal investigation, Center was the only one named in the Varsity Blues "subterfuge" in a September 2019 UT news release signed by the university president.
He told Austonia he was never contacted by the university during the investigation, and when the NCAA interviewed him for its investigation, he says it cleared him of any violations.
“I almost fell out of my chair,” Center said. “I literally couldn’t breathe. There’s no college coach in America—much less at a state school, much less a coach of a nonrevenue sport—who can admit an athlete without consulting other people in the athletic department. What they were asking people to believe, it’s just impossible.” SI said Center's assertion was backed by multiple UT coaches and administrators at other schools.But why would the Forty Acres be complicit?
Center said UT’s then newly named athletic director Steve Patterson made clear that Center suddenly was responsible for more than building a successful tennis program. He was to be a "fundraiser first and coach second" and he would need to find donors to fund a new tennis facility. Patterson admitted to SI that he wanted his coaches to find donors and said the department was "$15 million in the red" when he started in 2013, though he denies any knowledge of the false tennis recruitment.
Center said he knew he would be "considered a team player" if he let in the son of a Silicon Valley magnate. And sure enough, Schaepe immediately began pulling out his wallet, donating $100,000 to UT tennis and a six-figure check to the school's communication program.
"I never entered this as a way to profit. This was a fundraising mission where I made a terrible mistake at the end,"
Months after Schaepe's son was admitted, Center agreed to meet Singer at the Austin airport and found himself accepting a backpack filled with $60,000 in cash meant for him, personally. He said he immediately knew he had made a mistake. He told SI “I put the money in my basement and gave most of it away.”
“Why did I do it?” Center told Sports Illustrated. "I go to bed and wake up each day asking myself the same question. I had to convince myself that I somehow deserved the money."
Once in court, Center showed texts with UT's compliance official and mentioned Chris Plonsky, a department executive involved in "overseeing men’s tennis, compliance, academic support (which generates letters of intent) and the Longhorn Foundation," according to SI.
“I knew I had to answer for my guilt,” Center said. “But I was like, 'Man, schools are going to get hammered.'"'
INMATE 77806-112 but out on Sunday: Actor Felicity Huffman in prison uniform outside low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin to visit actor husband William H. Macy & their daughter. Huffman admitted to paying $15K to have fixer boost daughter’s SAT score. 📸: @TMZ pic.twitter.com/9jALmqnA0U
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) October 21, 2019
But Center was the only Longhorn to go down for the crimes. “I was no rogue actor,” Center said. “And this wasn’t my word against their word. There were signatures that went along with it. That’s the system... There wasn’t one point in the process where I thought people wanted to learn the whole truth.”
Back at home in Austin, Center watched as actress Felicity Huffman served just eleven days for her part in the scandal. Some served up to five months; others simply paid a fine, and others, like Singer, await sentencing.
And because the prosecution chose to blame individual coaches, framing schools as victims in the case, universities like UT have received less than a slap on the wrist for their possible involvement.
“I was always taught that actions have consequences,” Center said. “What I’ve come to realize is that, yes, for some people actions absolutely do have consequences. Serious, heavy ones. For others, actions can have no consequences at all.”
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