Refueling the Family Business with Nostalgia, Pecans, and the Zest for Bringing Back the Magic
By Deena Attia

Lately, Stuckey’s is getting a lot of exposure in the media and it is all due to the diligence that  CEO Stephanie Stuckey is investing. 

The story of Stuckey’s began 85 years ago in 1937. W.S. “Sylvester” Stuckey Sr. created the first roadside stop and shop. Stuckey’s became a part of the family road trip experience. Hitting the asphalt in a station wagon with the family and stopping at Stuckey’s is a tradition that many remember from their younger days. The snacks, cold drinks, hot coffee, and souvenirs for the kids made the long hours on the road more pleasurable. 

Have you ever bitten into a pecan log roll? Oh, the light, fluffy nougat center mixed with maraschino cherries and hand-dipped in an antique copper kettle holding fresh-made buttery caramel, then hand-rolled in cut pecan pieces from Georgia and wrapped quickly for freshness, the description from the website is enough to make your mouth water. Don’t forget the pecan divinity or the pralines. The best thing is you don’t have to choose just one, gift boxes are thoughtfully put together and ready to order on the website there is a “Welcome to Summer” box chock full of pecan candies and taffy, a coffee mug, and a stuffed “Georgia” gray squirrel. 

When the business was booming there were 368 retail stores. Stuckey’s was the first roadside chain. Over the years Mr. Stuckey ran the business with the philosophy that every traveler was a friend. After many successful years of building the brand, he sold the company. 

Fast forward to 2019 when Stephanie Stuckey, the granddaughter of Mr. Stuckey bought the company back.  Stephanie took her life savings and invested in a company she believed in. She did not want the story of Stuckey’s to be over. Stephanie learned about her grandfather and the businessman that he was when she acquired boxes of archives. Loads of pictures and other treasures told the story of the golden time of Stuckey’s. Stephanie also learned that the manufacturing and delivery of the product was her grandfather’s focus and she is continuing with the same focus. 

The deciding factor for Stephanie to delve into the family business was, “I loved my grandfather. I knew his vision and was a part of that. We stopped at Stuckey’s when I was growing up when we took road trips.”

The journey Stephanie has taken in the last couple of years has meant a lot of time on the road. At the time when she bought the company the magic of Stuckey’s had vanished, and now when you see everything she has been doing you see she has been conjuring up the spell to refuel the flame. 

Stephanie is a super smart and energetic woman on a mission with a clear vision. She was a lawyer and a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, so she could be considered well suited to run a business, but even with that background, she was not prepared for the emotional toll that would creep in at times while navigating through the early stage after buying back the business. Boxes of archives from her grandfather and visits to the Stuckey’s sites were much-needed resources and tasks to be accomplished to truly understand the scope of the work to be done. Seeing some of the abandoned buildings or damaged locations was part of getting the full assessment of what she had to work with in rebuilding the brand. The original Stuckey’s store in Eastman, Georgia is now a thrift shop. It is heartbreaking, but she does not focus on what could have been, only the present and the future. 

Presently, 15 original stores and 68 remaining locations provide nostalgia and merchandise to drivers looking for a stop along the way. There are over 5,000 other options for buying Stuckey’s products throughout the U.S. and Stephanie is working tirelessly to build more partnerships to get her products in big chain stops along the highways. 

While she travels throughout the country she posts fun content on Stuckey’s social media accounts-Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok you will see the amount of time and effort she takes to create the content that educates about the brand and the history of Americana. Stephanie not only talks about her business she also holds a hefty amount of affection for other family businesses that were once strong but faded over the years. 

History buffs can get their fill of Stuckey’s nostalgia on YouTube. While most businesses have a marketing company manage their social media accounts and create content Stephanie is doing it all. She has learned from online sources and YouTube videos and she has grown her followers organically and sparingly boosts a post every now and then. There are so many fun facts like- Do you know how Mr. Stuckey, Sr. determined the distance between locations? It was a simple calculation. He would stop at his shop, buy a cup of coffee, and drive until nature called and that was what determined the distance between the locations.

The short-term plan is to continue to become a national brand. Stephanie wants Stuckey’s to be the go-to brand for pecans. Going back to the basics and redefining in a fresh way. The company sources 100% of its pecans from local farmers.  Driven to achieve to put the pecan on the shelf and have Stuckey’s be the brand, she is also highly aware of the importance of keeping health trends in mind. Yes, candy is a mainstay, but raw pecans are available for the more health-conscious. 

The long-term goal for Stuckey’s is to have locations at tourist destinations. Touristy Americana and hospitality all represent Stuckey’s and it fits perfectly that the stores would be available for families at those destinations.

The messaging and storytelling are still about the magic of the road trip. The top Google search when Stephanie bought the business back was Whatever happened to Stuckey’s? She is making it clear that Stuckey’s is making a robust comeback and is very visible. 

With over 85 years of hospitality and roadside treats and fun trinkets what will happen in the future? Will the business stay in the family? Stephanie’s daughter Beverly, 16, and her son, Robert, 19 are too young now to know what their future holds and if pecans will be a part of their professional life. Stephanie does want them to understand enough if they want to continue the story, but for now, it is too early to be determined.