Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to have found his convenience store.
Seven years after then-Gov. Rick Scott attended the opening in Orlando of the first of what has become more than 160 Wawa convenience stores in Florida, DeSantis this week sang the praises of Texas-based Buc-ee’s stores.
WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record reported last month Buc-ee's filed more plans to build a 104-pump gas station off Interstate-95 in St. Johns County at southeast International Golf Parkway and World Commerce Center Parkway.
“I don’t think a lot of people in Florida quite understand what you’ve built in Texas yet, but I think they will once it opens up,” DeSantis said at the groundbreaking in Daytona Beach for one of the first Buc-ee’s in Florida. “Texans swear by Buc-ee’s. They will plan their trips around Buc-ee’s. It’s really become a religion there.”
For the Texas pit-stop chain founded in 1982, Florida is just the second state in “invasion” plans that stretch to North Carolina, as laid out by owner Arch "Beaver" Aplin in the March issue of Texas Monthly.
In taking part in the ceremonial chore of shoveling dirt, DeSantis joined Aplin, who has also been a deep-pocketed contributor to Texas Republicans.
Aplin has donated at least $325,000 since 2014 to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has since named Aplin to the state’s Parks and Wildlife Commission.
Also, an endorsement of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick by Aplin and his Buc-ee’s co-founder Don Wasek prompted an attempted boycott of the company in 2014 by Congressman Joaquin Castro, the brother and campaign chairman of Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.
As for the 53,000-square-foot travel plaza coming to the interchange of Interstate 95 and LPGA Boulevard in Daytona Beach, DeSantis praised the employment opportunities, available snacks and souvenirs and mentioned he’d like to set some sort of record by having motorcyclists during Bike Week simultaneously occupy the 120 fuel-pump stations.
He didn’t broach the company’s Texas-size brag of having the nation’s cleanest restrooms (for a convenience store), which could bring some debate in Florida from aficionados of the Busy Bee locales along Interstate 10.
And DeSantis still has a way to go to match the affection Scott held for Wawa. Scott, now a U.S. senator, once semi-seriously pitched changing the name of a Florida town to Wawa if the company’s management would relocate the headquarters from Wawa, Pa., to the Sunshine State.