Billboards along Anderson’s stretch of Interstate 85 alert drivers to a gas station more than 100 miles away in Adairsville, Ga.
Some billboards are stacked on top of each other, both featuring the same iconic ballcapped beaver haloed in gold.
All introduce South Carolinians to the notion of a gas station that’s not just a gas station but a Texas shopping mall with 120 gas nozzles and everything from kolache pastries to deer corn.
But as much as Bucc-ee’s has a cult following across the Southeast, the billboards aren’t there to just reel South Carolinian travelers into Georgia.
After two years of construction, Bucc-ee’s on May 16 will open a 53,200-square-foot station off Florence’s interchange 170 on Interstate 95. The travel center, built in a 500-acre multi-use park, will be the 38th in the Bucc-ee’s line-up and is slated to hire 200 full-time employees, according to a news release.
“Florence is the perfect place for the first Buc-ee's travel center in South Carolina," Stan Beard, director of real estate for Buc-ee's, said in the release. "A beautiful city that also happens to be located along the East Coast's main interstate, Florence has become a destination itself."
The buck doesn’t stop there. In 2020, the Texas chain began to scout out property in Anderson County and made a $930,000 purchase of 32 acres off Interstate 85’s Exit 21 on Liberty Highway for a second South Carolina store, according to Anderson County Property records.
“We look for a very strong workforce, and we require a lot of support from the local officials, and we’ve gotten that,” Bucc-ee’s general counsel and spokesman Jeff Nadalo told SC Biz News.
Bucc-ee’s requires about $60 million in infrastructure improvements, according to April 19 estimates, but both Nadalo and Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns said the company will pay for a large portion of the improvements.
The company has sent Anderson County $1 million to initiate preliminary engineering and environmental work on the site.
“The intersection that they are locating on, even before Bucc-ee’s purchased that property, has been in dire need of an upgrade,” Burns said, adding that need has been enhanced with Glen Raven Sunbrella’s expansion. “Now with Bucc-ee’s that has increased the urgency of that because as you know, they will provide 200 jobs and as you know, they’re a destination. And they would be a great source of gasoline tax revenue for the state. So we see it as a win-win.”
Expanding the Liberty Highway bridge across Interstate 85 presents the greatest challenge. Burns said the bridge was too small for Anderson’s rapid growth even before Bucc-ee’s research team reached out to the Upstate county.
Burns noted that Bucc-ee’s will not fill a void left by the closure of a truck stop on Exit 27.
“Trucks are not allowed at Bucc-ee’s,” he said. “There’s not place for trucks to fuel there. The biggest ruck you’re going to have at Bucc-ee’s is a pickup truck.”
In tandem with Bucc-ee’s assistance, funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Department of Transportation grants and American Rescue Plan Act programs could also be used to finance the project without burdening county taxpayers, he said. The company has its eye on a 2025 opening, depending on how soon the investment can come through.
Burns has fielded a few negative comments about the project due to traffic concerns, but from everyone else the questions suggest excitement: When can they sample Beaver Nuggets, the chain’s signature puffed corn snack? Why can’t Bucc-ee’s get here sooner?
One resident shared that the first thing her Texan grandsons want her to do when she visits is take them on a 25-minute ride to visit the beaver.
“I gave a speech last night at the Powdersville Fire Department,” Burns said. “And the thing that people were most excited about was Bucc-ee’s. So, there’s Bucc-ee’s fever around.”