The 2022 McLane Leadership in Business Award recipient said his advice to students and young entrepreneurs is simple: Make a decision, roll up your sleeves, and act on your ideas.
That was Arch “Beaver” Aplin III’s approach after graduating from Texas A&M University with a civil engineering degree in 1980. He moved home to work for his father’s construction and development company, but quickly found that it wasn’t a passion. Aplin soon turned to the idea of opening a grocery store, inspired by his grandfather’s small general store in Louisiana, where he used to play and work the gas pump.
Just two years after graduating, Aplin opened his first store in Lake Jackson and named it after his pet Labrador Buck. He shared the story behind the legendary multi-million dollar deal Wednesday at Texas A&M’s Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, where he was honored as this year’s recipient of the McLane Leadership in Business Award. The award is presented by the Bush School’s Mosbach Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy and recognizes individuals for their contributions to business, public service, or community service nationally.
In a moderated conversation with Raymond Robertson, Director of the Mosbach Institute, Aplin reflected on the opening of his first Buc-ee location. From that initial 3,000-square-foot store — slightly larger than the industry’s 2,400 — he’s now working at a 74,000-square-foot location soon to open in Tennessee.
Aplin also spoke about a second recent endeavor – the establishment of an academic center on the Texas A&M campus that will serve as an immersive learning lab for students. The university announced Aplin’s $50 million gift in June.
The center, which is still in the early planning stages, will offer programs in hospitality, retail studies and food product development, as well as majors in viticulture, fermentation processes, coffee and food science. Aplin said the project’s key partners will be the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Mays Business School, adding that the center will have an “entrepreneurial flair”.
With a prime location in the shadow of Kyle Field and across from the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, Aplin hopes the center will be a “meeting place” on campus.
“It’s going to be wonderful,” he said. “It’s still on the whiteboard, it’s just a blank piece of paper, which is exciting that we have the opportunity to build something from the ground up.”