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Welcome to Buc-ee's

Welcome to Buc-ee's
Welcome to Buc-ee's 06:04

We all know that feeling: You're out on the open road, your gas tank is empty, but your bladder's full. Well, in Texas a lot of folks in that predicament look for a cartoon beaver … the smiling mascot of Buc-ee's.

It's a gas station chain beloved by road-trippers for its award-winning bathrooms and truly Texas-size scale – 54,000 square feet of homemade fudge, a beef jerky bar, and tons of merchandise featuring that smiling beaver. 

Say hi to the rodent! CBS News

Perhaps not since Mickey Mouse has a cartoon rodent captured the hearts (and crucially, the dollars) of so many, including customers like Alex and Yasmine Abreu. "We love going to Buc-ee's," said Alex.

Correspondent Luke Burbank asked, "Would you be as excited about a place if this was just called Travel Stop?"

"I haven't thought about it, but probably not," said Alex.

"You stop for the beaver," said Yasmine.

More than a gas station; it's a travel destination for fans of fudge, beef jerky and BBQ.   CBS News

Arch "Beaver" Aplin III (the one wearing the boots he had made with the Buc-ee's logo) is Buc-ee's founder and CEO. And yes, he really does go by Beaver.

"Beaver was my nickname; my mom named me that when I was born," Aplin said. "There was a cartoon character way back, really before my time, a toothpaste commercial, and he was Bucky Beaver. So, this fellow always called me Bucky Beaver growing up."

Aplin opened the first Buc-ee's in 1982 as a regular-sized convenience store. It wasn't until 2003 that he got the idea to build the Mother of All Gas Stations. These days, Buc-ee's has 41 travel centers throughout the South, and boasts two world records, for the world's largest gas station and the world's longest car wash.

The record-holder for World's Longest Car Wash.   CBS News

But the most popular attraction at Buc-ee's might be its restrooms – voted the best bathrooms in the nation back in 2012. Aplin designed the restrooms himself: "Lots of space, tile floor-to-ceiling, well lit. This is very spacious, very private."

Correspondent Luke Burbank with Buc-ee's founder and CEO Arch "Beaver" Aplin III.  CBS News

If the bathrooms are the number 1 and number 2 reasons for going to Buc-ee's, then number 3 might be this:  fresh chopped brisket!

In 2017 Buc-ee's hired eight-time world BBQ champion Randy Pauly as its director of BBQ. It's Pauly's job to teach new hires (like Burbank) how to break down a brisket: "So, these are going to be logs that we're going to chop up. And what we do is front to back, X-pattern, and you'll be good."

"Okay, right," said Burbank, chopping away. "I got fresh chopped brisket on the board!"

In this case, it was, it turns out, actually Burbank's first rodeo. "How was that, boss?" he asked.


Luke Burbank tests his brisket-chopping ability. CBS News

After almost 40 years in business, "Beaver" Aplin and his very private, very camera-shy business partner, a guy named Don Wasek, still own 100% of Buc-ee's. No investors, no board of directors. And that's exactly how they want it.

"Yeah, it allows us total independence to do what we think is the best," Aplin said. "And we don't have to answer to maybe a suggestion of how could we cut costs."

It's probably one reason why the starting wage for employees at this gas station is $15/hour, with benefits.

Burbank asked, "Did you ever have a moment where you thought, 'Wow, I made it. It happened'?"

"My dad, I could always tell he had a little bit of concern – 'Are you okay? You sure are building these big,'" Aplin said. "This went on many, many years. When I saw in my dad's eyes that he wasn't concerned anymore and he felt like we had made it, then I think that would be my moment."

Aplin is now taking Buc-ee's national, with six travel centers outside Texas, and plans for many more. He's betting that this unapologetically Texas institution can work beyond the borders of the Lone Star State … and he could be right. After all, when you've got to go, you've got to go, and there just might be a cartoon beaver guiding the way.

CBS News

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Story produced by Dustin Stephens. Editor: Chad Cardin. 

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