To consumers who have only recently tried Stuckey's famous pecan log rolls, the brand might be new, but to others, it's been a household name since the 1960's, when it originally got its start.

Those who grew up in the 1960’s and '70's might remember pulling over at Stuckey’s on family road trips. The blue sloped roofs were an oasis to travelers looking for a friendly stop where they could fill up with gas, souvenirs, and treats. At its peak, Stuckey’s had over 350 stores in 40 states, a candy plant, a distribution center, and a sign-painting business that produced 4,000 billboards that covered the nation’s highways. Its full history can be read here.

Nowadays, it produces cheecans (cheese snacks with pecans), pralines, toffee, peanut butter meltaways, chocolate-covered pecans, and more. However, despite its success, it never lost sight of its roots as a pecan snack and candy brand best known for its signature item: the pecan log roll.

The company was founded by W.S. Stuckey, Sr. in 1935 as a roadside pecan stand outside of Eastman, Georgia, says Stephanie Stuckey, CEO and granddaughter of the founder.

Mr. Stuckey began his business during the Great Depression with a Model A Ford to haul pecans and a $35 loan from his grandmother. “It was all the money [my grandmother] had,” he would later reminisce. He bought nuts from local farmers and took them to a sheller for processing, marking them up a few pennies in order to turn a profit. Sales were sluggish at first, until he realized that people were more likely to pull over for candy than raw pecans. 

"He enlisted his wife, Ethel, to help make classic Southern confections: pralines, divinity, turtles, and fudge. Ethel experimented in the kitchen with an old family recipe to make a nougat with cherry pieces, dipped in caramel, and rolled in pecans. The pecan log roll was born, and it was an instant hit with customers," says Stephanie Stuckey.

By 1937, his business was profitable enough to open his first brick-and-mortar store in Eastman, adding fuel tanks and restrooms to his offerings to encourage more motorists to stop, she says.

"Stuckey’s business continued to grow until wartime rationing forced him to close the three stores he had in operation when World War II hit. Instead of going out of business, he learned to pivot and scaled his candy making operations with a manufacturing plant that supplied confections for the troops. Prior to the war, Stuckey had been making his candies on-site at his stores to be eaten within a day or two. Mass production for the military taught him how to package and preserve his products for longer shelf lives. When the war ended, Stuckey remained in the candy making business while re-launching his roadside stores," Stephanie adds.

The post-war economic boom years brought much growth for Stuckey's, she says, and it grew to be a national brand synonymous with the American road trip. Unfortunately, in 1964 W.S. Stuckey sold his company to Pet Dairy Corporation, which started decades of outside ownership. Without its founder at the helm, Stuckey's lost its magic, Stephanie says.

"The Arab Oil Embargo saw a decline in road travel, and the Pet was bought out by a Chicago Railroad conglomerate. Hundreds of the highway stores were sold—or worse, turned into strip clubs and trucker bars," she notes.

“It was heartbreaking to see what happened to my grandfather’s vision,” Stephanie recalls. “When folks ask me why I bought Stuckey’s, my answer is simple. It’s because I loved my grandfather and didn’t want his legacy to be a bunch of shuttered and abandoned stores on America’s highways.”

Stephanie, an environmental attorney and former seven-term Georgia State Representative, purchased the company in November 2019. At the time, there were only 13 original stores still operating, and the company was in massive debt—about six figures' worth. 

“Stuckey’s was sold the year before I was born,” she says. “So I went on road trips like everyone else in the '70’s, stopping at Stuckey’s and enjoying the experience. I thought there were enough folks like me who had fond memories of the brand that we had a shot at reviving it.”

In order to resuscitate the brand, Stephanie went back to the company’s roots: making pecan snacks and treats. She and her business partner, R.G. Lamar, Jr., purchased a manufacturing plant in Wrens, Georgia. For the first time in over 50 years, Stuckey's classic pralines, divinity, turtles, and pecan log rolls were now being made in-house.

The gamble paid off: the company is now profitable, and sales have grown from $2 to $13 million in three years, with an expansion planned later this year for the Wrens facility.

Surprisingly, it's harder to revive a brand than to start one, says Stephanie.

"Stuckey’s has pivoted from being a roadside retail store to a consumer packaged good. While there are still a handful of legacy licensed Stuckey’s in business, none of them are owned by the company. They are independently operated and pay a fee for the use of the Stuckey’s name on their storefront," she explains.

“The store model is our past,” she elaborates. “We’re driving growth of the brand through third-party retail sales in grocery channels like Ingles and Food Lion and convenience store channels like Wawa and TA, among others.” Through broker and distributor relationships, the Stuckey’s branded snacks can now be found in some 5,000 retail stores across the country, although mostly focused on the Southeast for the present time, Stephanie says. 

In addition, the company is expanding its snack and candy making operations in Wrens, and adding about twenty new jobs. “We’re committed to growing with the community,” Stephanie explains. “The folks here in Jefferson County have been great partners and supported us with a wonderful workforce. Plus, the best diner in the state is just down the road from our plant.”

While the pecan log roll remains the company's #1 seller, the largest growth category for the company is its snack pecans, Stephanie says. 

“Our audacious goal is to be the go-to snack brand for pecans in this country,” she says optimistically. “We’re in the heart of pecan country, as Georgia is the #1 state for pecan production.” Stuckey’s produces four flavors of pecans—sea salt, honey roasted, kettle glazed, and maple—with plans to roll out more options in the near future.

Presently, Stuckey's boasts 65 licensed locations, with its products available in 200+ retailers, and a distribution center in Eastman, Georgia, as well as a pecan and candy plant to make its own products.

Look for Stephanie and her business partner, R.G. Lamar, Jr., at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago this May. Stephanie was recently named to the National Confectioners Association Board of Trustees and is looking forward to being an advocate for the snack and candy industry. In addition, she's very active on her LinkedIn page, and can be found posting about what's new with the company, as well as her daily adventures. 

“The future is bright for Stuckey’s and the sweets and snacks business,” Stephanie says. “I’m excited about being a part of growing both our brand and the industry as a whole.”

Related: Stuckey's invests in its pecan brand, new Georgia facility