TUSCOLA, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – For those traveling between Abilene and Tuscola on U.S. Highway 83/84, there’s not much in the way of gas or convenience stores, save for the Hilltop gas station – which is cash only. This is where Dale Rankin and his fellow partners stepped into build a Bowie’s Travel Center just three miles north of the highway split. A challenge the partners are facing now isn’t construction permits, but a license to sell beer and wine.
“A friend of mine is a partner in several businesses. He built the store (Bowie’s) in Menard. I liked that store so much I told him we needed one in Tuscola,” Rankin explained.
Construction began in January, but Rankin found they would need to pass a legal hurdle if the store is to reach its full potential as a travel center.
“As we researched the liquor laws, we realized that this part of the county is dry,” Rankin said. “For whatever reason, no one has ever attempted to sell alcohol in this part of the county.”
Though Tuscola and neighboring Buffalo Gap voted to go wet within city limits, in the past nine years, no such vote was held for this unincorporated stretch of highway. Rankin and his partners collected just shy of 900 signatures and submitted to have a local option election held for Taylor county Precinct 3.
Voters in that area will decide on November 8, if they want to have the area containing Bowie’s stay dry or go “damp,” meaning the travel center could sell beer and wine for off-premises consumption.
Of the eight rural residents, KTAB/KRBC was able to speak with four who were in favor of going wet, two who were neutral citing that surrounding towns were already wet, and two who were adamantly opposed – stating that even if the cities were wet, they’d prefer the land they live on to stay dry.
“We’re gonna build the store and operate it anyway, but to have a convenience store without beer and wine is not near as interesting to investors,” Rankin added.