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The quiet success of Buc-ee's - Forbes estimates that the privately held company had revenue last year of $275m - is based on several shrewd decisions. Owners Arch Aplin III and Don Wasek have targeted an affluent market segment - they don't discount, and they don't allow commercial trucks at their gas pumps. They have nurtured the cultlike following that has grown around their brand. They've fattened their margins with lots of private-label merchandise. And they've taken advantage of years of low interest rates to finance an expansion that is designed to make them a power across the Southeast. So far, the chain, based in Lake Jackson, about an hour south of Houston, has 32 stores and plans for 2 more, including one in Daytona Beach, Florida, its first venture beyond Texas. The company has also been shopping for land in Alabama.
While most Buc-ee's locations are the size of a typical convenience store (about 3,000 square feet), its 12 "travel centers" are enormous. The latest is now under construction off a new highway interchange in Katy, half an hour west of Houston. It will have more than 100 gas pumps and 52,000 square feet of retail space. It will employ more than 200 people and feature what may be the largest car wash in the world. "The Guinness Book of World Records people are checking on that," Aplin says.
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