Everything’s bigger in … Fort Myers?
Buc-ee’s is planning a Texas-sized travel center between Interstate 75 and a RaceTrac location, on the south side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“If all goes as planned, Buc-ee’s hopes to have the store open sometime in 2019,” wrote Jeff Nadalo, the company's general counsel, responding to emailed questions.
It will be among the first couple of Buc-ee's stores to open in Florida.
The convenience-store chain, based south of the Houston metro area, is known for its massive operations that offer huge retail stores, dozens of gas pumps and pristine restrooms.
“The store will be 50,000 square feet in size and offer 80 fueling positions,” Nadalo wrote, referring to the Fort Myers store.
By comparison, RaceTrac stores are typically 6,000 square feet with 18 to 24 fueling positions, while Wawa stores are generally 4,000 to 6,000 square feet and can accommodate eight fuel dispensers, according to their websites.
Buc-ee’s, with its cute beaver mascot, colossal size and focus on clean commodes has led to a cult-like following. It also emphasizes fast, friendly service and keeping its many items in stock.
“Buc-ee’s stores are just plain fun,” Nadalo wrote. “Buc-ee’s stores are well-known for offering an extensive selection of freshly prepared food, ample jerky options, as well as numerous snacks, including various candies, nuts, and other treats.”
The chain is also known for its catchy billboard messages, such as "A Bigger Kolache? I Never Sausage a Thing" and "Eat Here, Get Gas."
Aside from its vast selection, Buc-ee’s stores also cater to the places they serve, so expect a certain amount of Florida-centric offerings.
“Buc-ee’s will offer products that are specifically tailored to the customers living in and traveling through the Fort Myers area,” Nadalo wrote.
In this region, the closest operation to come anywhere close in scale may be the Love’s Travel Stop at the Bayshore Road interchange in North Fort Myers. Still, that one has a store a fraction of the size and to some extent caters to truckers. By contrast, Buc-ee’s doesn’t allow big rigs.
Buc-ee’s, which offers at least 32 stores in Texas, is venturing outside the Lone Star State for the first time with plans for stores in Fort Myers and Daytona Beach. But why Florida?
“Buc-ee’s has focused on building in Fort Myers and Daytona because these areas are proven and established destinations for travelers,” Nadalo wrote.
The News-Press Market Watch commercial real estate expert and CRE Consultants partner Stan Stouder is the listing broker on the Fort Myers property, the sale of which has not yet closed.
“That’s in the public record,” he said, when called about Buc-ee’s buying the land. “They’re very popular in Texas. They seem to be a very well run, very astute organization.”
The parcel is 159 acres. More than 43 acres fronting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is being rezoned to commercial intensive, with more than 53 acres along Ortiz Avenue being rezoned to commercial general. The remaining 60 acres or so will remain as professional office.
“The site surrounds the Lee County Jail, so with them for a neighbor it is not the easiest thing for me to sell,” Stouder said.
Buc-ee’s has not yet composed a site plan, but he noted a bunch of wetlands on the land will be preserved.
Additions to that interchange in recent years include a RaceTrac store west of I-75 and a 7-Eleven east of the interstate. A Wawa store was built further east, at State Road 82 and Colonial Boulevard.
“This is really a continuation of growth at that corridor,” Stouder said.
said Florida is the third-largest gas market in the country behind Texas and California, so it makes sense for Buc-ee’s to enter the state.
“It speaks highly of Florida and what’s going on down here,” he said. “It’s a great market and it’s very competitive.”
Bowman called Buc-ee’s a destination for travelers and a showcase for retailers. A typical store employs 225 people.
“You can see the product mix,” he said. “It’s not like a regular convenience store. They have good operators and it’s a very good company to work for, but it’s a different concept than a Wawa or a RaceTrac. It’s the size of a Publix.”
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