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Stuckey’s History

Here today, here tomorrow

If you’re of an age to remember tourist camps, Burma Shave signs, and two-lane blacktops – or even gas lines, Pintos, and crackling AM radio — chances are you remember the sprawling Stuckey’s empire: A venerable roadside oasis — and a highway heaven of souvenirs, cold drinks, hot snacks, and pecan candy — marked by the pitched roof and teal blue shingles. 

Who could forget the pecan divinity, flavored pecans, and most of all the celebrated Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll, a heavenly inspired creation of Mrs. Ethel Stuckey herself? Based on a secret mix of powdered sugar, white molasses, and roasted nuts, that mouth-watering miracle of fluffy white sweetness covered in its own deep coating of crushed select pecans became the soul and spirit of the store and the number one reason for families to stop… well, along with using the restrooms, gassing up the car, and having a snack and a soft drink, of course.

Soon after our founding, however, Stuckey’s became more than a pecan log roller. From the late 30’s to the early 70’s, the teal blue roof was as famous then as the golden arches are today. 

Sadly, in the late 70’s, the empire began to dwindle when Stuckey’s was purchased by a large corporation and became trapped in a time warp. Of the 350-plus locations operating in our heyday, the number dropped to a handful of stores.

In 1984, W.S. “Billy” Stuckey, Jr., son of the founder and a five-term Congressman from the 8th District of Georgia, acquired the company and began to turn the company around.  Under Stuckey Jr.’s helm, the Stuckey’s Express – or store within a store – concept was launched, and the company expanded to over 115 franchised locations on the interstate highways spanning 17 states from Pennsylvania to Florida in the East and to Texas in the West.

In November of 2019, Ethel “Stephanie” Stuckey, Billy’s daughter, took over as President and CEO of Stuckey’s.  Stephanie aims to continue the legacy started by her grandparents of providing a fun and quality experience for the roadside traveler through our brick-and-mortar locations, as well as expanding markets for Stuckey’s pecan products via e-commerce and other outlets.

Those who remember the Stuckey’s of yesterday will smile with approval on the Stuckey’s of today. It’s a sure bet that W.S. Stuckey, Sr. would, too.

Stuckey’s Pictorial History

Glancing back in time is always interesting and educational.  Seeing old pictures that bring back fond memories and understanding where one has been in order to move forward is incredibly important to ensure future success.  Recently, author Tim Hollis delved deep into Stuckey’s History and created a fantastic journey looking at where we were and where we are – this book is available through out on-line store and makes for a wonderful, recommended read and will look great on the coffee table for others to pick up and enjoy!

Images from the past….

Stuckey’s relationship with the highway traveler goes back decades and we know that there are hundreds of stories and memories spanning generations.  Before smart phones became an integral part of our lives, folks photographed key moments of their experiences through old fashioned “film” cameras capturing images that were relevant at that moment.  The same is true for Stuckey’s and we wanted to share some of our historical images below so you can see a forgotten time.  These images show our stores with stacks of our delicious candy, locations along the highway flying the Texaco flag and a bevy of other images that reflect a simpler time.

Please take a few moments and enjoy!

History of Selected Products

Where did the idea originate to create and sell Stuckey's candy?

Stuckey’s candies owe their beginnings to Mrs. Stuckey’s extraordinary perception of her customers’ needs.

Our customers, she suggested to her husband, would really enjoy the southern candy treats she’d always made. Why not add them to the varieties of pecans already available in the store?  Mrs. Stuckey thought beyond the moment and had the vision to see an enormous opportunity beyond the confines of the four walls of the first Stuckey’s store.

Thankfully, Mr. Stuckey listened to the wisdom of his wife and with the addition of flavored pecans, pecan divinity, pecan brittle, peanut brittle, and of course the Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll, an American tradition was born.

Where was the Stuckey's candy first made?

With the decision to offer customers old fashioned candy as well as pecans, life grew just a little more complicated for the Stuckey family. In the first true Stuckey’s in Eastman, Georgia, a small candy kitchen was added to the side of the main store to rapidly deliver fresh “southern made” candy.

Mrs. Stuckey and her sister, Mrs. Pearl Landers, worked non-stop throughout the day, creating enough fresh, fluffy pecan divinity to ensure that every customer left with exactly what was wanted.

Mrs. Stuckey and Mrs. Landers made all the Stuckey’s candy in this way until just before World War II. In fact, the method didn’t change until the first Stuckey’s candy plant was opened in Eastman in 1948.  Stuckey’s still used this building as a distribution hub to ship our candy nation-wide.

Pecan Log Rolls, Stuckey's not the first, but clearly the best!

While it’s not exactly known who created the very first pecan log roll, many would argue that it was Mrs. Stuckey who actually perfected it. The signature item within all Stuckey’s stores and the “must have” purchase during family travel stops from the 1950’s through today, the candy was first made in the candy kitchen attached to each store.

In eight Stuckey’s stores in the years after World War II, employees faithfully followed Mrs. Stuckey’s original southern recipe. The maraschino cherry-laced nougat was hand dipped in hot, creamy melted caramel, then before cooling, freshly shelled pecan halves would be liberally sprinkled onto the caramel. Each pecan log roll was hand wrapped and delivered straight to the customer.

As the Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll grew to its legendary popularity, demand outpaced production. Today, the Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll is offered in a vast array of sizes and still is based upon Mrs. Stuckey’s original recipe.

Flavored Pecans: Another natural step.

When W.S. Stuckey, Sr. decided to sell pecans at his roadside stand, he had no idea how successful and popular his products would eventually become. As his business grew beyond his wildest dreams, Mr. Stuckey decided to expand his pecan offering with flavored pecans.

In 1952, both the Toasted ‘n Salted and Sugar ‘n Spiced Pecans made their debut in vacuum sealed, church key cans. The innovative Mr. Stuckey embraced the idea of massive, off-shelf product displays with his flavored pecans, among the all-time favorite products of Stuckey’s fans. In a Stuckey’s store in the 1950’s, it wasn’t unusual to find 200 or more cans prominently displayed on a small round table in the traffic aisle of the sales floor.

Both of these pecan flavors were joined in the 1990’s by the Honey Roasted Pecans, the Dry Roasted Pecans, the Praline Pecans, and in the 21st century by the Lightly Salted Pecans. And though the packaging is different today, the unparalleled freshness and quality remain the same.

The evolution of Stuckey's along the American Highway.

After Bill Stuckey, Jr. and partners regained control of the company, the highway landscape and the competition had significantly evolved.   In the same way Route 66 was no longer the fastest way to cross the country and everyone traveled the interstates, all local highways on both coasts were no longer the preferred method of travel and a lot of the past stores were simply no longer viable.  These stores along the “back-roads” of America were converted to other businesses, but there were still a core group of locations along the interstates.

These stores became the backbone of our resurgence through the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Usually located right off the major interstates, these stores are still prosperous today.  Whether in Hattiesburg, MS, Summerton, SC, Anauhac, TX, Mappsville, VA or Bagdad, FL – there are still many original Stuckey’s buildings serving the public and offering customers our delicious confections.

In addition to these prominent stand-alone locations, Stuckey’s established the “store within the store” concept and has partnered with over 50+ locations that prominently feature Stuckey’s products and gifts.  These locations have fully embraced our original ideas and are an excellent place to stop and Relax, Refresh & Refuel.

If you would like to determine if any of these locations are on one of your future travel paths, please visit our location guide……

If I wanted to visit an old-time Stuckey's store where would i go?

If you are looking for an old-time building and a flashback to the past – the following list of 17 locations are in old Stuckey’s buildings.  These locations have sometimes been remodeled and upgraded and sometimes not, but every single one is a great store!

Johnston City, IL – Mappsville, VA – Hattiesburg, MS – Summerton, SC –  Whitakers, NC – Bagdad, FL – Marshall, MO – Paxico, KS – Scottsmoor, FL –                    Yeehaw Junction, FL – Winnie, TX –                Old Fort, NC – Arkadelphia, AR – Marion, AR – Gallman, MS – Livingston, AL – Hope Hull, AL

Stuckey's Today

Stuckey’s continues to focus on expanding the brand and ensuring we will be part of the American landscape for years to come!  Headed by the grand-daughter of our founder, President & CEO Stephanie Stuckey leads our dedicated team of employees who are focused on meeting the requests of our customers.  In fact, a fourth generation member of the family owns and operates a very successful traditional location.

Going forward, we are absolutely focused on our brand and our 70+ franchised locations throughout the United States.  These stores are the back-bone of our operation and will maintain their exclusive presence at their interstate exit locations.

In addition, you can find select Stuckey’s candy items at a wide variety of non-competing highway and destination locations throughout the country or you can simply order on-line at your convenience.

A Model Stuckey's story about remembering the past today....

EASTMAN

When Brad Moore was growing up in the Midwest, summer always meant a trip to visit his relatives in Macon.

It was part of an understanding his father, Keith, had with Brad’s mother, Meldra. They met when he was stationed at Robins Air Force Base in 1950 and married two years later.

They lived in Kansas City, where Keith became treasurer of Hallmark Cards. Every summer, his wife made him promise to take her back to the land of grits and honeysuckle.

Brad remembers visiting his grandparents after the Macon Mall opened in 1975. He ate at his first Shoney’s restaurant. Another summer, he saw the movie “Rollercoaster” in “Sensurround’’ at the movie theater.

For a 10-year-old boy, sometimes the “going” was as much of an adventure as the “arriving.”

His father would unfold Texaco road maps and connect every dot from Missouri to Kentucky to Tennessee to Georgia. Sometimes the family would travel the concrete ribbon of the interstates. Other times, they would take the back roads past row crops and through sleepy little towns.

The planning always had to meet his father’s criteria.

“My dad’s trip route was always based on where the Stuckey’s were,” Brad said, laughing.

When the children in the back seat grew restless, he would tell Brad and his sister, Leslie, to look for those familiar red-and-yellow Stuckey’s billboards. They were as much of a highway icon as the famed Burma Shave signs. (And the Ron Jon Surf Shop signs of today.)

There were so many of them, one would swear Mr. Stuckey had cut down every pine tree in Georgia to let travelers know Stuckey’s was three miles ahead on the left.

Suddenly, at the next green exit sign or around the next curve, the sloping teal-blue roof would come into view like an oasis. It was as familiar as the golden arches of McDonald’s or the orange steeples at Howard Johnson motels.

“As our reward, we would get a pecan log roll,” he said. “I remember the roof was open all the way up to the top with wood beams. In a funny way, I think those Stuckey’s influenced my decision to go into architecture.”

He got his degree in architecture from the University of Kansas in 1988. He also developed his own side business, commissioning to build architectural models for apartment complexes and other businesses for promotional purposes.

That, too, was partly inspired by those family vacations. After visiting relatives in Macon, they drove to Orlando — stopping at most of the Stuckey’s stores along the way, of course. Brad was fascinated by all the “miniature” buildings at Disney World. His parents also bought him a set of Legos.

He stopped making model buildings about 10 years, then picked it up again three years ago. He wanted to make sure he hadn’t lost his touch. He also longed for the nostalgia of the “roadside Americana” he grew up seeing. It was a way to honor the memory of his late parents.

His first project? You guessed it.

Glue isn’t the only thing that has him stuck on Stuckey’s. It’s part of his story.

He studied old photographs on the internet. On a business trip to Florida, he found one of the original design Stuckey’s stores along Interstate 95 between Daytona and Coco Beach. He stopped and took photographs inside the store and out in the parking lot.

“I very (discreetly) tried to eyeball some of the measurements,” he said. “I’m sure the guy in there was probably wondering what in the world I was doing. I got all the information, took it home and drew up some plans.”

He purchased 4×8 foot sheets of raw, white styrene plastic. He cut them into strips and the project came to life. He made it a 1:24 scale, so a half-inch represented one foot.

He began in January 2013 and finished three months later. After he posted photos of his progress on his Facebook page, he learned about a “Stuckey’s Roadside Club” on Facebook. He joined the group and began sharing photographs of his Stuckey’s miniature.

It created quite a buzz by some of the page’s followers. Among them was Ray Smith, a lifelong Eastman resident, who contacted Brad that July.

“I told him if he ever wanted to give it away or get rid of it, Eastman would love to have it,” said Ray.

Brad told him he would think about it. He had once had a potential buyer — a man who was interested in Route 66 memorabilia. He also wasn’t sure about the seriousness of Ray’s request.

He noticed Ray’s hometown of Eastman was an hour from his old summer stomping ground in Macon. He had not been familiar with the company’s history, starting as a Depression-era roadside stand in Eastman that was the genesis for a pecan-rolling, gas-pumping empire that grew to more than 350 stores and at one time had thousands of employees on its payroll.

“I didn’t realize Eastman was the home of Stuckey’s and that it was so close to Macon,” he said.

Although the original Stuckey’s have given way to the “Stuckey’s Express” concept at convenience stores, truck stops and gas stations, Brad still finds himself waxing nostalgic for the old days.

What made it popular, he said, was that it was a known entity. It was consistent and reliable.

“People knew what they were getting,” he said. “They could count on it.”

After he completed the project, he stayed in communication with Ray. He also began a dialogue with Charles Williams from the Eastman-Dodge County Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce.

“When I saw a few pictures of the model, I was just amazed,” said Charles.

Brad told them that he wanted to present the miniature of a Stuckey’s roadside store as a gift to the city of Eastman. Arrangements were made for him to make the journey to Eastman this past week.

Members of the Stuckey family and others in the community met with him at a reception at the chamber of commerce Wednesday afternoon. The model is now on display in the lobby.

“I knew I was going to have to do something with it,” said Brad. “It couldn’t just stay in my basement or on my dining room table. This is where it needs to be. Everything happens for a reason. There was great joy in making it. But the real joy is in sharing it.”

Ed Grisamore teaches journalism, creative writing and storytelling at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears in The Telegraph on Sundays. He can be contacted at edgrisamore@gmail.com

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