Buc-ee’s Creator Receives 2022 McLane Leadership In Business Award
The recipient of the 2022 McLane Leadership in Business Award said his advice for students and young entrepreneurs is simple: Make a decision, roll up your sleeves and act on your ideas.
That was Arch “Beaver” Aplin III’s course of action after he graduated from Texas A&M University with a construction science degree in 1980. He moved home to work for his father’s construction and development business, but quickly realized it wasn’t a passion. Soon, Aplin turned to the idea of opening a convenience store, inspired by his grandfather’s small general store in Louisiana where he used to play and work the gas pump.
Just two years after graduation, Aplin opened his first store in Lake Jackson, naming it after his pet Labrador, Buck. He shared the story behind the iconic, multi-million-dollar business Wednesday at Texas A&M’s Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, where he was honored as this year’s recipient of the McLane Leadership in Business Award. Presented by the Bush School’s Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy, the award recognizes individuals for their contributions in business, public service or community service at the national level.
In a moderated conversation with Raymond Robertson, director of the Mosbacher Institute, Aplin reflected on opening his first Buc-ee’s location. From that first 3,000 square-foot store – a little bigger than the industry-standard 2,400 – he’s now working on a 74,000 square-foot location that will open soon in Tennessee.
Aplin also discussed a second recent endeavor – establishing an academic center on the Texas A&M campus that will serve as an immersive learning laboratory for students. The university announced Aplin’s $50 million gift in June.
The center, which is still in the early planning stages, is envisioned to offer programs in hospitality, retail studies and food product development, as well as degree programs in viticulture, fermentation processes, coffee and food science. Aplin said key partners in the project will be the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Mays Business School, adding that the center will have an “entrepreneurial flair.”
With a prime location in the shadow of Kyle Field and across the street from the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, Aplin hopes the center will be a “go-to gathering place” on campus.
“It’s going to be wonderful,” he said. “It’s still on the whiteboard if you will, it’s just a clean sheet of paper, which is exciting that we have the opportunity to build something from the ground up.”