By Gail Marsh
“Relax. Refresh. Refuel.” Turquoise slanted roof. Pecan log rolls. Yep, it’s Stuckey’s! And the iconic Stuckey’s roadside mecca just may be making a comeback!
A little Stuckey’s history
In the mid-1930s a Georgian pecan farmer, W. S. Stuckey, and his wife, Ethel, decided to capitalize on a bumper pecan crop. They set up a roadside stand and sold pecans to travelers along Georgia’s highway 23. (As it happens, this road was the main highway connecting the north to Florida in the south.) Business was so good for them that Stuckey expanded his little pecan stand to include nearby farmers’ pecans and honey. Ethel began selling her own special candies at the stand, too: pecan rolls, pecan divinity, and pecan pralines. A business was born!
By the 1960s the Stuckey’s had 368 stores in more than 30 states. This road trip icon offered Texaco gas, clean restrooms, and kitschy souvenirs along with their famous pecan candies. Their 4,000 billboards alerted travelers to their distinctive-looking stores and Stuckey’s became one of the most recognizable brands in the United States. In 1964, Stuckey’s merged with Pet Milk, Inc., in order to increase production and add capital for growth.
Founder, W. S. Stuckey, Sr., died in 1977. That same year, a Chicago company bought out Pet Milk along with Stuckey’s and began closing stores until only a handful of Stuckey’s roadside stores remained in operation.
A comeback for Stuckey’s roadside classic?
In 1984, W. S. Stuckey, Jr. (son of the founder) acquired Stuckey’s and remarketed it as a franchise opportunity called Stuckey’s Express. This “store within a store” concept introduced a whole new generation to the Stuckey’s brand, especially their famous pecan candies.
Stuckey, Jr., concentrated his efforts away from the original roadside concept. With more and more competition popping up along the country’s Interstate highways it seemed the best way to guide the famous company. A downside? Most of the remaining iconic Stuckey’s roadside classic buildings found along the nation’s highways were left to decay.
Stephanie Stuckey, granddaughter of the founders, became CEO of Stuckey’s in 2019. She has an energetic and dynamic vision for the company’s future. She’s opened several new locations and plans to upgrade the 20 remaining original Stuckey’s roadside classic locations, as well. Ms. Stuckey has added close to 200 retail partners and established a successful e-commerce presence in the last few years – even with the pandemic.
In February of this year, Stephanie acquired several companies that will allow the Stuckey’s brand to make and sell its own products for the first time since 1964. The best news of all? Stuckey’s plans to introduce new candy products soon. I can hardly wait!
During segregation, Stuckey’s was listed in the Green Book (an annual travel guide that helped Blacks safely travel across the U.S.). Stuckey’s was featured in the 2018 movie, “Green Book.”
Do you remember Stuckey’s?
Do you have a favorite Stuckey’s candy or memorable souvenir? Tell us about it in the comments!