Meet Wally's: The Missouri Convenience Store That Looks A Little Too Familiar - Mashed (2024)

Grocery Gas Stations

ByJennifer Geer/

Anyone who has road-tripped across the Midwest knows the highway miles can grow long and dull, leaving you eager to stretch your legs and grab some treats for the road. However, most gas stations leave much to be desired, including shabby restrooms and stale food. This is where Southerners are lucky. They can break up long road trips with stops at the iconic Buc-ee's, a mammoth-sized convenience store known more for its ambiance than pumping gas. Buc-ee's offers travelers a fun stop with spacious clean bathrooms, fresh food stations, homemade beef jerky, Buc-ee's branded clothing, kitschy gifts, tasty treats, and a whole lot more.

And now, Midwesterners have their own supersized gas and convenience store to rival Buc-ee's. In 2020, cousins Michael Rubenstein and Chad Wallis opened the first Wally's. It is a 30,000-square-foot store in Pontiac, Illinois, built among the cornfields between St. Louis and Chicago. Wally's offers a retro vibe and sports a large light-up sign, "Home of the Great American Road Trip," that is easily spotted from the highway. The second location is in Fenton, Missouri, about 30 minutes outside of St. Louis.

Wally's, just like Buc-ee's is more than snacks and gas, it offers an experience for the whole family

Texas-based Buc-ee's has locations throughout the South, although most are in Texas. Well-known and beloved within the state, Buc-ee's is much more than a place to fuel up and use the restroom. One Texan on Reddit compares the marketing to Disney and describes the anticipation a carload of kids may get as they see upcoming signs along the highway. And once you arrive, "You see this giant sign with the beaver on it rising out of the ground, and then this massive gas station — like operating on an industrial scale — and the bathrooms are spotless with individual hand sanitizers at every urinal. They place roasted nuts in the entrance so that's the first thing you smell when [you walk] in. And there's a giant wall of beef jerky and a wall of soda fountains and a guy in a Buc-ee's costume walking around dancing."

Wally's, on the other hand, doesn't get quite the amount of rave reviews nor does it appear to have as devoted of a fan base as Buc-ee's. But perhaps it just hasn't been around long enough to pick up a fan base yet. One person said on Reddit of Wally's, "It's big enough to stretch your legs in the AC, has multiple hot food and snack options, plus trinkets for anyone that wants one." While another commented, "Lots of fun on a road trip."

Wally's has copied Buc-ee's wall of jerky

One of Buc-ee's most famous food offerings is the jerky. Buc-ee's jerky comes in different textures and flavors including classics such as peppered and steakhouse, and more unique options like jalapeño honey and cherry maple. While jerky wasn't invented by Texans (it can be traced back thousands of years to the indigenous people of South America), the jerky industry is big in Texas. At Buc-ee's, customers can shop the various flavors among a wall of jerky choices.

Wally's, just like Buc-ee's offers many jerky options such as original, teriyaki, honey jalapeño, and peppered. Wally's has a jerky bar, with homemade beef jerky, or a large selection of bagged jerky. Overall, people on Reddit seem to enjoy Wally's jerky, although some complained it's too dry. However, this reviewer said, "people commenting that the jerky is too dry are probably eating the savory ones. True jerky IS dry — it's dried meat ffs. Sugar is what makes jerky soft. The korean bbq one and the sweet n' spicy one are softer if that's what you prefer." While another commenter said the jerky is "good" and "super fresh."

Unlike the usual convenience store, Wally's offers fresh food stations

Fans of Buc-ee's know when they spot one on the highway, they will have plenty of fresh food options in one location. Buc-ee's is famous for freshly made barbecue sandwiches. At Buc-ee's, you can get a hot and fresh brisket sandwich slathered with barbecue sauce. Not only that, the chain offers other sandwich options, breakfast tacos, and fresh pastries. Buc-ee's pastries are not to be missed, especially the fan-favorite kolache. Though kolaches are a Czech pastry, they are beloved across Texas, and Buc-ee's offers savory or sweet kolaches including sausage and cheese or cherry.

Wally's, not to be outdone by Buc-ee's, also gives travelers plenty of fresh food options beyondthe usual plastic-wrapped, stale gas station fare. At Wally's, you can find homemadechips,grab-and-go cold sandwiches, or a hot sandwich bar with offerings such as pulled pork and Italian beef. While the Italian beef is reportedly not a true Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich (beef sliced thin with a juice-soaked bun topped with hot giardiniera), one food blogger said the meat was "really tasty" as a sliced beef sandwich. Although Wally's doesn't offer the Texas favorite kolache in their pastry case, it does have a lineup of pastries to rival Buc-ee's, including a large selection of fresh cookies with flavors like s'more, chocolate chip, M&M, snickers, and white chocolate chip. Wally's also offers pizza, although Wally's pizza has not attained the cult following of the midwestern gas station chain Casey's.

Buc-ee's has Beaver Nuggets, Wally's has popcorn

One of Buc-ee's most famous snack foods is its Beaver Nuggets. This beloved snack is made with puffed corn tossed in a brown sugar and butter coating, somewhat similar to kettle corn. Online reviewers rave about Beaver Nuggets with this reviewer on Yelp saying, "My favorite snack to get here is Beaver Nuggets. It's like Cheetos puffs with a sweet flavor. This is a good snack for the road."

Wally's does not have Beaver Nuggets, however, it does has freshly popped popcorn made in-store daily. Travelers can buy an assortment of fresh popcorn flavors from the popcorn counter, or purchase themin giant tins.The smell of fresh popcorn popping in the machines fills the air, and this reviewer on Tripadvisor said the popcorn is, "just so fresh, crisp, and delicious." St. Louis Magazine reported Wally's will even sell popcorn from the counter in a five-gallon bucket, "perfect for filling with popcorn for snacking."

Both stores have adorable furry mascots

Buc-ee's famous, lovable, hat-wearing beaver mascot has been at the heart of many recent lawsuits over logos. The litigious Buc-ee's sued and won in 2024 against the convenience store Choke Canyon for its cowboy alligator logo. Buc-ee's is currently negotiating a settlement with the convenience store Chicksover its similar logo with cute animals. Other lawsuits have included Beaver Water, a bottled water company in Utah, and North Carolina convenience store Sam's Mart with a beaver logo. There are more we won't name here, but surprisingly, Wally's is not on the list so far.

The Wally's mascot is not on its logo, which has perhaps saved it from litigation. But it does have a friendly cartoon bear with a thumbs-up sign in its marketing. Wally the bear wears a blue sweater with a W printed on it, and can be bought as a plushie in the store.

Both convenience stores boast sparkling clean bathrooms

Perhaps the best thing of all about both Buc-ee's and Wally's are their spacious and immaculate restrooms. There is nothing more disheartening than having to stop at a filthy, cramped roadside bathroom on a long road trip. When travelers spot a Buc-ee's or Wally's sign along the highway, they know they are headed to a place with clean bathrooms. Not only are the restrooms clean, but there are so many stalls that travelers don't have to wait in long lines to use the facilities.

Buc-ee's was once awarded the best bathroom in the country from the "Cintas America's Best Bathroom Contest." And Wally's bathrooms are also spotless with a full-time attendant whose job it is to clean and sanitize the restrooms each hour. Reviewers on Yelp rave over Wally's clean bathrooms with one reviewer stating, "there's tons of bathrooms and they are the cleanest ones ever," while theState Journal-Register described Wally's bathrooms as "large, spacious, super clean, state of the art."

Although both convenience stores are immense, they aren't truck stops

Midwesterners may be familiar with the Iowa 80 Truckstop, billed as the "World's Largest Truckstop." The Iowa 80 stop, located along Interstate 80 in Iowa offers both truckers and travelers a place to rest, eat, shop, and stretch their legs. However, the I-80 stop is geared toward truckers with 900 truck parking spaces, a laundromat, a truck wash, showers, and more. On the other hand, Buc-ee's and Wally's, despite their large size, are not truck stops but are more geared to the average traveler.

Buc-ee's may be big, but it doesn't accommodate semi-trucks in its parking lots, nor does it have the usual facilities truckers may need. Wally's also does not allow overnight truck parking, and its owners explained in an interviewthat their goal was to create a family-friendly alternative to stopping at a traditional truck stop. "There's a place and a business to be had for the American traveler that isn't a truck stop," co-owner Chad Wallis told the Pontiac Daily Leader. However, unlike Buc-ee's, Wally's does allow truck parking on its properties, though the store does not have the type of facilities a trucker may need.

Both have massive drink stations

Whether you step through the door of a Buc-ee's or a Wally's, you will be greeted with a vast array of carbonated beverages. Buc-ee's offers 80 soda flavors including in-house flavors such as root beer, cherry lime, lemonade, blue cream soda, black cherry, and vanilla cola. At 60 flavors, Wally's has slightly fewer choices. While Wally's doesn't offer an in-house soda brand, it offers the option to mix and match flavors from sodas like Mountain Dew Code Red, Voltage, and Major Melon, in addition to Cherry co*ke, Diet co*ke, co*ke Zero, Dr. Pepper, Squirt, and 7-Up.

Frozen drinks are a favorite at gas stations and both Buc-ee's and Wally's have plenty. Buc-ee's sells ICEE slushies, while Wally's offers 12 slushy flavors of its own Sloosh brand. Some Sloosh flavors you may find at Wally's include Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, and Jarrito's pineapple, strawberry, and mandarin.

Wally's only has two locations, but is planning on expansion

Buc-ee's is a big operation, with over 45 locations across the South. While it began in Texas, Buc-ee's has expanded to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee, with plans to move into other states in the future. This is where Wally's falls short. There are currently two Wally's locations, one in Pontiac, Illinois, and the other in Fenton, Missouri. However, there are plans for two others on the way in Whitestown, Indiana, and Independence, Missouri.

The Whitestown location is set to open in late 2024. The location in Independence will be the largest so far, at 50,000 square feet with 80 fueling positions and 20 electric vehicle chargers. And if you're charging in the rain or snow, no worries, Wally's has you covered. Unlike many charging stations around the country, Wally's has built a canopy over its e-charging station to keep out the unpredictable Midwest weather. Wally's CEO Michael Rubenstein told CSP Daily News the company is "focused on Midwest expansion plans." With these new locations, the company hopes to increase its visibility at exit stops along Midwestern highways.

More than a convenience store, you can go shopping for just about anything

Gas stations typically sell the basic items, like batteries, flashlights, and small-sized toiletries. But if you step into a Buc-ee's or a Wally's, the sky is the limit. Both stores sell brand-themed clothing emblazoned with their logos. At Buc-ee's you can get t-shirts, pajamas, hoodies, and seasonally-themed shirts. You can even buy a Buc-ee's swimsuit with Buc-ee's beaver plastered on the front.

Wally's is no different, selling t-shirts, hoodies, and other clothing. Both stores sell koozies, mugs, tumblers, and coolers. And there is plenty more to choose from including, key chains, games, playing cards, camping gear, and soaps. If you're feeling nostalgic for Wally's but aren't anywhere near a location, you can get its roadtrip bundle for $50 online. With free shipping, you can get a Wally's branded trucker hat, two koozies, three sticker pads, and two bags of jerky.

Both stores sell beer, Wally's even has its own brand

You can't find hard liquor at Buc-ee's, but depending on the location, you can buy beer, wine, and wine chillers. On the other hand, Wally's has a shelf of hard liquor for sale, in addition to beer and wine. In fact, Wally's even sells its own brand of beer. Wally's teamed up with Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. in St. Louis, to create a light lager with the Wally brand on the can. A post on Facebook describes the drink as a "crisp, clean beer at just 95 calories, 3.7 carbs that doesn't forget to pack all the flavor you'd expect from Urban Chestnut."

Meant to be a light and refreshing beer, the Urban Chestnut website describes it as having a "low floral and citrusy hop aroma" and, "finishes dry, clean and crisp." One reviewer on Beer Advocate described Wally's brand of lager as "an easy drinking beer, especially when its cold. Feel is light, crisp, easy drinking." Another reviewer said, "Good to see a craft brewery making a solid American lager; it was fun to try," however they continued with, "but I doubt I'd buy it again."

Meet Wally's: The Missouri Convenience Store That Looks A Little Too Familiar - Mashed (2024)

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