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Buc-ee’s opens for business in Springfield 

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There were some overnight campers and a bit of a line outside when Springfield’s Buc-ee’s store opened just before 6 a.m. for the first time today. 

With an approach that included all-hands-on-deck staffing and additional help brought in from out of town, most of the store’s first customers experienced little or no waiting at registers or food service areas inside the 53,000-square-foot store. 

By the time the travel center hosted local officials for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m., the customer count had amped up significantly, with cars lining the edge of the lot and both sides of a rear access road, with not an empty spot to be found. 

Speaking after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, President Arch “Beaver” Aplin III said the convenience store he founded exceeded all of his expectations. Though the growing chain has become big business, he said it still feels personal to him. 

“It’s still kind of amazing to me that this many people would come out to see what we do and to enjoy and participate in it,” he said. “When you break it right down, we’re in the convenience store business, and I’m pretty proud of that.” 

Aplin said he enjoys seeing people in the stores with their Beaver-themed gear on. 

“It never goes unnoticed to me, that people will come out and the love they share. It just … it makes me happy,” he said. 

At this morning’s opening, Josh Smith, director of operations, expressed satisfaction with the start. 

“There were about 175 people or so in line, excited to open the doors, and some of them had been here since 11 o’clock last night, so they were ready to get in,” he said. 

The staff of 230 also was ready, Smith said. 

“Twenty-seven days is how long we’ve been in training,” he said, noting that his role was to coordinate hiring and training as well as store setup. 

Smith said it wasn’t hard to find people to work at the store, with pay starting at $18 an hour. 

“We try to fill internally from around the company, but we have hired several external managers, and those salaries range anywhere from $89,000 all the way up to $150,000,” he said. 

Matt Sheffield, director of food operations, was also witness to the first round of shoppers. He said he had been to the store several times over the last few months to check on construction and to help with training. 

Sheffield pointed out fresh brisket being prepared in the center of the store. In the morning, brisket tacos are on the menu, and barbecue brisket sandwiches are offered all day long. 

Special to the Springfield store is a grab-and-go area, Sheffield said. 

“This is the first store to have this new setup,” he said. “What’s new about it is the new merchandising and the offerings that we have in here today. We’re moving full forward with it.” 

Sheffield said the local employees did very well with training. 

“Our trainers have had nothing but great things to say about them, and it’s been a very smooth training process and opening,” he said. 

Also present for the opening from Buc-ee’s test kitchen in Houston was Jim Mills, who is the company’s culinary director. 

Mills, who said the Springfield store’s opening was his 14th in five years, said 27 days is enough time to learn how to prepare food, but not quite enough to learn it at volume. 

“Today is the theory and practice, right? So, we know that we’re going to lose some people because most of them have not ever worked in food service that has this much volume,” he said. “That’s just something that we’ve learned.” 

Mills said as culinary director for Buc-ee’s, he leads a staff that develops new products and recipes and prepares training videos and other materials for employees throughout the company. He also sends out teams to assess the quality of products in stores and address any needs that are observed. 

“The thing that sets us apart from most places up and down the highway is that when you go to a Buc-ee’s, as opposed to say a Love’s or a Pilot or something like that, a lot of that food in their displays is in a manufacturer’s packaging, and that sandwich may have been made a week ago,” he said. 

“If you go into a Buc-ee’s, every salad was made in this store, every piece of fruit was cut in this store, every sandwich was made in this store, every baked good was baked in this store.” 

Mills said everyone who works at Buc-ee’s is pointed toward the outcome of consistency. 

“We believe quality is really what sets us apart,” he said. 

Many of the first-day customers came decked out in Buc-ee’s gear, including sweatshirts, hoodies, Christmas sweaters and even pajamas featuring the grinning beaver logo. 

Kimberly and Sherry Pendleton, a mother/daughter pair who both teach in the Sarcoxie R-II School District, were checking out baby clothes in the gift shop portion of the store. 

Kimberly said they didn’t camp out but arrived right at opening. 

“We thought it would be a little more crowded,” she said, noting traffic and parking were both smooth sailing. 

Five teenaged friends from Fair Grove were tailgating in the parking lot with a folding table and a small cookstove on top. They showed off their only purchase so far: a lighter, used to get their scrambled eggs going. 

Tyler Gann, who coordinated the visit, said some of the group had pregamed by playing Fortnite at his house the night before. 

“We got here pretty dang early,” Gann said, noting they planned to go back inside after their meal. 

When asked what they liked about Buc-ee’s, Gann said the vibe was pretty much unbeatable. 

“The atmosphere and experience – that’s huge. I can tell it’s going to be a hangout spot,” he said. 

The project cost for the 53,000-square-foot travel center and 100-pump vehicle fueling facility is roughly $60 million, according to past reporting. 

Springfield City Council in June 2022 approved the establishment of the Cottle’s Range Community Improvement District for the Buc-ee's project. The 36-acre district can impose a 0.625% sales and use tax to reimburse Buc-ee’s up to $5.1 million for road and utility improvements, according to past reporting. 

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