Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: I’ve heard a Buc-ee’s convenience store will be built near the Cracker Barrel in Flat Rock. Any truth to that rumor?
My answer: Personally, I’d settle for a Sheetz. Look, Buc-ee’s is kind of the “Cadillac of Clean Bathrooms” mega-convenience store-gas station-restaurant. We’ve got to start out slow. Sheetz is pretty darn nice, and they’re all over North Carolina down east.
Real answer: If you’re not familiar, Buc-ee’s has quite the following in South Carolina, Florida and other states where the Texas-based chain has located stores, in part because of its reputation for sparkling clean restrooms. Hey, their website homepage blares, “Potty Like a Rock Star.”
While Buc-ee’s, also known for its adorable beaver mascot and cheap baseball caps promoting the little fella, has opened in South Carolina, the Tar Heel state hasn’t made the short list yet.
“We don’t have any sites, and we haven’t purchased any land in North Carolina,” Buc-ee’s spokesperson Jeff Nadalo told me in a phone interview. “Typically, we don’t announce we’re doing a store until we’ve closed on the land.”
In some past cases, Buc-ee’s has had land under contract, but during due diligence “something makes the project impractical or impossible,” Nadalo said. “And we don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
Last June, the Charlotte Observer reported about the chain in an article with the headline, “Buc-ee’s will open gas station stores in NC — eventually.”
The story noted that in 2021 Buc-ee’s withdrew plans for a travel center with a 64,000-square-foot store in Efland, near Raleigh, after “encountering resistance from residents and Orange County Board of Commissioners wanting to scale down the project.
“The popular Texas-based gas station chain opening its first South Carolina store last month confirmed the beloved cartoon beaver in a red hat will be popping up in North Carolina, too,” the Observer reported. “But it’s likely to be several years out. Buc-ee’s — known for its award-winning clean bathrooms, snacks and barbecue, and ‘friendliest beaver’ logo — opened its first South Carolina (store) in Florence on May 16.”
The article noted another store will open in Anderson, South Carolina, in about three years.
Also, I feel it’s worth noting the governor of South Carolina attended the opening of the Florence, South Carolina store.
I told you the beaver has some pull. Besides boasting that it has the “world’s cleanest restrooms,” Buc-ee’s, founded in 1982, also claims to have the “largest convenience store in the world at 66,335 square feet” in New Braunfels, Texas.
The chain has 44 locations listed on its website, with most of the stores in Texas, but it also has locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
Buc-ee’s typically locates stores outside of metro areas, so Flat Rock, which is about 30 miles south of Asheville (time-wise, between 40 minutes and four days, depending on how backed up I-26 is at any given time) would make sense. Except it’s not in Buc-ee’s crosshairs, apparently.
When I asked Autumn Radcliff, planning director for Henderson County, about Buc-ee’s possibly coming to Flat Rock, she said, “No Buc-ee’s that I know of coming to town.”
“There is a new Spinx planned on U.S. 25 North,” Radcliff said via email. That’s north of Hendersonville closer to I-26, though.
The Flat Rock property in question, which is not in the Village of Flat Rock town limits, is slated for other types of development.
“The property behind Cracker Barrel along Commercial Boulevard is being developed for industries,” Radcliff said.
Brittany Brady, president and chief executive of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, said she doesn’t have any information on a Buc-ee’s coming in.
She noted that in November 2020 Henderson County, the city of Hendersonville, and the Partnership for Economic Development partnered to create Garrison Industrial Park, a 41-acre industrial park off Upward Road and visible from Interstate 26. Jabil, a healthcare manufacturing company, plans to invest over $37 million in the site and create over 150 jobs, Brady said via email.
“There is currently a 13-acre tract and 4-acre tract marketed by our organization for industrial use,” Brady said. “Across the interstate on McMurray Road is Blue Ridge Commerce Center.”
That 66-acre site is zoned industrial and is being graded and cleared for industrial development.
So, no Buc-ee’s for now.
Question: When I moved to Asheville in 2012, the Asheville Art Museum had free admission one day a month. It appears to have disappeared. Was limited free access connected to financial support from the city? What happened?
My answer: It was connected to the prospect of bringing in a Buc-ee’s convenience store in the lobby instead of a gift shop. I told you, that beaver has some influence.
Real answer: “When the Asheville Art Museum reopened in November 2019, we were able to offer the ‘First Wednesday’ program through funding received from a private foundation,” museum spokesperson Joanne Lynch said via email, noting the program provided Western North Carolina residents general admission into the museum on a pay-as-you-can basis on the first Wednesday of each month. “Unfortunately, the museum had to close to the public due to COVID in March 2020, and we have been unable to offer this program since.”
Lynch said the museum “remains passionate” about the community and offers a variety of reduced or no-cost ways for WNC residents to access the facility. That includes participation in the Buncombe County Public Library Zoom Pass, free admission for UNCA students and active-duty military, free community days, area school tours, outreach programs, and scholarships.
“The museum also offers several low-cost and discounted membership options, which include free admission all year long for anyone who wishes to visit the museum regularly,” Lynch said.
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.