Chris Koerner just started a business selling Buc-ee’s snacks online, and already the orders are coming in at a brisk pace — faster, you might say, than a beaver swimming downstream.
Customers from as far away as Alaska, Canada and even Australia are logging in to Koerner’s Plano-based business, TexasSnax.com, and ordering the snacks that had made Buc-ee’s stores a cult-like favorite of Texas travelers for years.
Buc-ee’s travel centers — which are typically built on the fringes of urban areas to capture long-distance motorists who need a rest stop — are known for their acres of gas pumps, squeaky clean restrooms and the fabled store logo featuring a toothy beaver wearing a baseball cap.
But, even though Buc-ee’s is rapidly expanding — with 37 locations now open in Texas, Alabama and Georgia — its famous snack products are a rare sight in much of the rest of the world.
Even so, clearly a lot of people are familiar with Buc-ee’s snacks, and are craving them — especially the bags of sugary puffed corn known as Beaver Nuggets.
“The Beaver Nuggets are the most popular item,” Koerner, a recent graduate of TCU’s Neeley Executive MBA program in Fort Worth, said in an interview. “But we have people who will order a little bit of everything. They want Buc-ee’s blankets, pork rinds, the Bohemian Garlic Beef Jerky. We have even sold the pickled quail eggs.”
Koerner, who is originally from the Daytona Beach, Fla. area and moved to Texas about six years ago, said he got the idea for starting the online business after his very first visit to a Buc-ee’s store.
During that first visit, he was blown away by the variety of snacks at Buc-ee’s — the hundreds of choices of sweet and salty packaged goods, as well as fudge, pretzels, cinnamon rolls, trail mix and dozens of other types of munchies. He was even more surprised to discover that Buc-ee’s itself didn’t seem to put a priority on selling these products online.
So, Koerner, an entrepreneur who along with his cousin Kirk Salisbury had already co-founded a food shipping business known as Send Eats in Plano, decided to create an off-shoot business — TexasSnax.com — and sell the Buc-ee’s products themselves.
Send Eats already fulfills food orders for 23 other companies, mostly from a warehouse on Technology Drive in Plano, Koerner said. So the corporate infrastructure was already in place to add TexasSnax.com to the mix.
Is it legal to re-sell Buc-ee’s items?
TexasSnax.com is what’s known as a third-party seller, a business in which goods made by another business are re-sold, typically with a markup on the original price.
Third-party sellers are common on Amazon. During the ongoing COVID pandemic, when items such as toilet paper or Lysol disinfectant spray have been in short supply, third-party sellers have been criticized for offering those items for sale at prices that many consumer feel are ridiculously high.
And, many Buc-ee’s products can be found on Amazon, for sale by third-party businesses — often at a significant markup.
For example, one seller named Lone Star Essentials LLC is offering Beaver Nuggets for $12,49 a bag.
TexasSnax.com offers the same bag for $5.99.
For those who can visit a Buc-ee’s in person, the same bag of Beaver Nuggets can be had for $3.99. That was the price of a 13-ounce bag of Beaver Nuggets during a recent stop at a Buc-ee’s in far north Fort Worth.
Koerner said he isn’t interested in gouging customers. Most items sold on his website are marked up 20 to 30% from the retail price he pays at the Buc-ee’s closest to his home in the McKinney area.
Shipping at TexasSnax.com is free for orders $97 and up. For smaller domestic orders, shipping is $3 to $9, depending upon weight, and international orders come with higher shipping fees.
Koerner said that when he buys Buc-ee’s products, he pays full retail price and gets into the same checkout line as other customers. He and his employees often fill up four to five small shopping carts per visit.
Koerner lives in Collin County, and the store closest to his Send Eats warehouse — where the TexasSnax.com business is also located — is in Melissa.
Federal law allows one person or entity to sell another person’s or entity’s copyrighted property under a legal term known as “first sale doctrine,” which essentially says that federal protections only apply to the first sale of a given product. In other words, when someone legally buys a copyrighted product, they can do anything they want with it, including reselling it to someone else.
There are limitations to the law, according to the law publication company Nolo. For example, industries such as music are protected beyond the first sale.
But most retail products — including packaged snacks — can be resold.
What Buc-ee’s says about TexasSnax.com
Koerner said that before he launched TexasSnax.com, he repeatedly tried to get hold of Buc-ee’s management, but initially couldn’t get calls returned.
So, he and Salisbury decided to go ahead and launch the TexasSnax.com business anyway, after researching laws and concluding they were within their rights.
They sold more than 1,000 items in the first few days the website was up, Koerner said.
When Koerner was finally contacted by Buc-ee’s, he said he was pleasantly surprised at how cordial and helpful Buc-ee’s management and legal counselors were.
The Buc-ee’s representatives made several requests of Koerner, all of which he agreed to.
They asked him to change the original name of the company, BeaverSnax.com, because it was too closely associated with the Buc-ee’s logo. They also asked Koerner to use a strongly-worded disclaimer at the top of his website to make it clear that his company isn’t associated with Buc-ee’s.
When reached for comment, Buc-ee’s officials confirmed that they had been in contact with Koerner and didn’t object to his third-party sale of their products.
“Buc-ee’s doesn’t object to TexasSnax.com reselling Buc-ee’s snacks online, as long as it’s done in the right away,” Jeff Nadalo, Buc-ee’s general counsel, said in a statement.
Buc-ee’s officials declined to elaborate on whether they have any intention of expanding their own online sales presence for Beaver Nuggets and other popular fare.
Koerner said he is optimistic that his relationship with Buc-ee’s will grow, and that maybe in the near future the company will ask him to operate the company’s official online order fulfillment center.
For now, he is focusing on fulfilling orders and building a happy customer base.
“Our goal is to prove ourselves,” he said. “We want to show them (Buc-ee’s), here’s how we are taking care of your customers.”