Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today, we have some surprising news. The Bucky’s Express Gas Stations Houston’s locations have finally crumbled. This should not provide a huge shock to anyone who follows C-Store news, as Bucky’s was purchased by competitor Casey’s just over a year ago. Initially, it seemed the plan moving forward was to convert the locations into Casey’s stores. It would make sense, as Casey’s is now the third-largest C-Store chain in the U.S. However, the Houston locations were always outliers to what were otherwise two Midwestern chains. By the end of 2021 when most other stores had started to don the Casey’s name, the Houston locations had not changed. According to a source at one of the stores, Casey’s had little intent to keep the stores, and the deal took longer than expected only being finalized in April 2022. This deal also supposedly includes a license to use the Bucky’s name at least through the transition. The new owner Panjwanii Energy LLC, known to Houston consumers as Star Stop (Who have over 130 locations as of 2022 and still no online presence of their own!), has been operating the stores for the past few months and as of my visit, seems to be in the midst of remerchandising and resigning the locations. The sale included 4 operating Bucky’s locations and 1 planned store. Reports via Social Media have indicated that the transition has been less than smooth on Star Stop’s end. With locations consistently running out of items and transitioning between gasoline suppliers, and other major services leaving the stores without things like credit card readers or ATMs for a bit. The locations picked up, are very new, well-appointed with different services and options, and overall nice-looking, but the placement of locations is questionable at best.
Bucky’s has had a difficult time establishing themselves in Texas. Some of the difficulty in our market stems from the universally obvious name confusion between Bucky’s, and Buc-ee’s. The similar names, animal mascot, and fact that they were trying to enter Texas, led Buc-ee’s to file a lawsuit against Bucky’s in 2017. The suit aimed to keep Bucky’s out of Texas, rather than discontinue the use of the name, as an earlier lawsuit had already settled this issue. Both companies started using the name around the same time and attempted to register a trademark on the name within months of each other. The 2017 lawsuit, came only months after Bucky’s announced their intent to build a Houston area location. It would be their first store outside of the Midwest, and the company had somewhat lofty plans, if their numbering scheme is to be trusted then they had plans for at least 10 stores from the start. By the time Buc-ee’s had filed suit, there were concrete plans for 6 stores in and around the Houston area. Of these stores, the four that would open would take their sweet time. The first location to open would end up being the Nassau Bay store, which was one of the nicer spots for a gas station like this. The next store, Westpark and Highway 6 was actually the first store planned, and in a high traffic spot for gas sales, but not convenient as a snack stop. The third would be the oddly situated Clay and Gessner, which seems to have been largely been shopped by employees at the nearby HEB Houston HQ and Distribution Center. and finally the newest and most prominent Beltway 8 location. A planned but unbuilt location at S. Post Oak, and S. Willow was also part of the sale to Star Stop, and beyond being on the flood plain look at the Sunny/7-Eleven they were replacing. A proposed store on the site of a former Driving Range on Westheimer near Eldridge would end up canceled during the Bucky’s stage. It’s quite obvious why Bucky’s didn’t work out in Houston, it’s all about location. The question is how did they manage to screw that up in the modern age. With internet research, you’d figure that Bucky’s would know better locations to pick, they also teamed up with two property development companies according to the lawsuit. It seems that Bucky’s was doomed in Texas from the start, the Casey’s purchase sped things up (with the construction on the last store being stopped right after the purchase). Even if Bucky’s had managed to build up their numbers, it’s unlikely they would have lasted for much longer in this market.