Frank and Mia Chiarello saw a well-known bouquet face on Monday.
The couple, both Texas natives now living in Daphne, arrived at Buc-ee's travel station from Interstate 10, approx. half an hour east of downtown Mobile. It was the opening day for the first Buc-ee outside the company's home base in Texas.
"We were surprised," Frank Chiarello said when he first learned that the Buc-ee's opened somewhere in Alabama. "I've tracked them since."
Mia Chiarello had a pro-Texas shirt when she arrived at the store. Frank Chiarrello had a Buc-ee's t-shirt saying on the back, "Everything is Beaver in Texas."
"We wanted to make sure we rowed for them," Frank Chiarello said.
Alabama Buc ̵
Why Buc-ee chose Alabama for his first non-Texas-supersized travel center
Within the Alabama Buc-ee, visitors can find a wealth of items marked with the company's cartoon buck-tailed beaver logo: beef jerkey, fudge, candy and preserves.
In addition, the store sells items that are unique to the Alabama Gulf Coast: Mardi Gras-themed t-shirts and merchandise, crawfish cooking products and beach umbrellas.
Billboards announcing the company's arrival at the state have revealed its initial payment area – $ 13 to $ 17 an hour – to the 200 plus jobs that have been filled in the travel station. Workers met visitors early Monday with a delight, "Welcome to Buc-ee."
The Buc-ee serves as a gateway to the Baldwin Beach Express, which was opened in 2014 and serves as an alternative route from I-10 to the state's coastal beaches.
The company's arrival in Alabama comes without sales or property tax incentives. Baldwin County will spend close to $ 400,000 on traffic signals on Beach Express and I-10 and in nearby County Road 68.
The lack of incentives is in stark contrast to what some of its Texas sites do. In Denton, Texas, the City Council approved $ 8.1 million over 22 years of VAT refund to lure a Buc-ee to Interstate 35 north of Dallas.
The nearest Buc-ee to the Baldwin Beach Express location is in Baytown, Texas, which is about 470 miles.
Mia Chiarello said she has told her Alabama friends about Buc's reputation for having clean toilets and an immaculate parking lot.
"I tell them to stop there," she said. "They have the cleanest toilets."