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With Texas-sized fanfare, Buc-ee's opens 2nd Kentucky location

Lisa Autry
Lisa Autry

What did it take for tiny Smiths Grove, Kentucky to get its first traffic light? One word...Buc-ee's. Known for fan favorites like brisket, fudge, and beaver nuggets, Texas-based Buc-ee's cut the ribbon Monday on its 53,000 square foot travel center along I-65 in Warren County.

Hundreds of people gathered in the parking lot of the travel center, including Laurel and Lofton Smith of Nashville who were decked out in matching Beaver onesies.

“We’re just really big Buc-ee enthusiasts," said the couple. "We’ve been to three in Alabama, two in Tennessee and now this is our first in Kentucky.”

Jacob Martin
Lofton and Laurel Smith drove from Nashville for the grand opening of the Smiths Grove, KY Buc-ees.

Famous for thousands of food and drink options, pristine bathrooms, more than 100 gas pumps, and beaver merchandise, Buc-ee's has gained a cult following since the first store opened in Texas in 1982. The chain began a multi-state expansion in 2019, opening centers in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

An employee prepares barbecue brisket during the grand opening of the Buc-ee's in Smiths Grove.
Lisa Autry
An employee prepares barbecue brisket during the grand opening of the Buc-ee's in Smiths Grove.

Texas-based Buc-ee's has locations in 14 states, but Smiths Grove, just north of Bowling Green, is the smallest community to welcome the gas station on steroids.

"I like small towns," Buc-ee's founder Arch “Beaver” Aplin said at Monday's grand opening. "The people are real, the work ethic is real, and I didn’t flinch a bit about that. It’s going to be a wonderful experience."

Lisa Autry

According to the company, the Smiths Grove location will create at least 200 jobs "well above" minimum wage, in addition to full benefits.

Smiths Grove Mayor Dave Stiffey said there are mixed feelings in the rural town with under 1,000 residents.

"When you live somewhere all your life and things are changing, there are concerns with some people," Stiffey told WKU Public Radio. "Some people say, 'great,' because growth is inevitable and when it starts it just seems to keep going.”

Buc-ee's opened it first Kentucky location in Richmond in 2022.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at Jacob.martin@wku.edu.