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In this installment of the Dandy Fun House, we’re going to unpackage and taste test the iconic Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll which I picked up from a roadside stand while driving through Alabama. You may be saying to yourself, what’s the big deal about some candied nut roll from the side of the road? Well… this particular pecan log roll is from the brand new batch in the brand new packaging from the brandly newly acquired factory from the brand new reorganization and revitalization efforts spearheaded by new CEO and granddaughter of W.S. Stuckey Senior himself, Stephanie Stuckey.
We’re going to discuss the inspiring rise and the tragic fall of this chain of roadside stops that became part of Americana folklore with their tasty treats and kitschy, tacky, crazy souvenirs that would make your grandma blush and run straight to the safety of Cracker Barrel’s lobby. And of course we’re going to cover the underdog comeback fight currently being waged to bring this blast from the past back to its former glory. Ya feeling lucky Stuckey? Let’s step into the Fun House!
Stuckey’s “was and is” a chain of roadside snack, convenience and souvenir stores mainly found throughout the United States Midwest and South with its headquarters located in Eastman, Georgia. Now why would I say “was and is?” Well, mainly because a large number of Stuckey’s locations you might have come across over the last decade or two have either been closed, abandoned, or if open; fallen under horrible neglect and disrepair.
But that’s not the way it’s always been. In fact, in its heyday, Stuckey’s was that funky, fun joint your family might have stopped at while toodling down the highway to grandma’s house after playing car games like Punch Buggy, I Spy, or the License Plate Game because… no cell phones.
Dad might have bought a toilet-shaped ashtray, your brother might have picked up a suction cup bow and arrow and tried to shoot you with it between the aisles and your sister might have gone gaga over a fairy disco roller skating doll while Mom was buying Pecan Divinity treats for everyone because… that’s what Moms do.
Talk to anyone over the age of about 40 or 50 and they’re sure to have some fond memories of stopping at Stuckey’s for a bite to eat, something wacky tacky snacky, and gas to get em’ going way back in the day!
Imagine it’s the early 1930’s in the farming and timber town of Eastman, Georgia. W.S. “Sylvester” Stuckey Sr. is enjoying a bumper crop of pecans harvested from his family’s orchard. He borrows $35 from his grandma to buy some of the family harvest and sets up a lean-to roadside stand to sell pecans to Florida-bound tourists on Route 23 and makes a tidy little profit in the process.
Clever business man that he is, he keeps the ball rolling, opening more stands along more routes while Ethel his wife whips up batches of treats like Pecan Divinity and of course the Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll.
The first official Stuckey’s store was built in 1937 which added a restaurant, novelty shop, gas pumps and finally that trademark blue roof!
Now Stuckey’s no dummy. He’s got FOMO figured out long before it becomes an acronym (fear of missing out). He knows customers will come if they think others are already there. So what does he do? He has employees bring their cars and park them out front so they always look busy!
Expansion continues until World War II and a brief decline due to sugar rationing. But after the war ends, Stuckey’s restarts like a rocket. Franchising and building a candy factory to supply their now over 350 locations! They also buy their own trucking and sign companies so they can stick their billboards right between the Coppertone Kid with the pants-pulling pooch and See Ruby Falls!
1964, Stuckey’s merges with Pet, Incorporated, makers of evaporated milk and other foodstuffs. Under this new ownership and eventual takeover by a Chicago conglomerate, locations unfortunately dwindle to less than 75 before the Stuckey’s brand is repurchased in 1985 and brought back into the family by W.S. “Billy” Stuckey Jr. who introduces “Stuckey’s Express – a store within a store” which is basically a stand of products placed inside various non-Stuckey’s stores where they license space. A third-party contractor is brought in to run the candy plant and this restructuring breathes new life into the company bringing Stuckey’s Express into 175 locations.
Fast forward to the recession of 2009. Stuckey’s gets hit hard by the economy and the candy plant closes although their goods continue to be manufactured by outside vendors. During this time, many of the legacy locations of Stuckey’s had also slowly been falling into neglect, disrepair and abandonment altogether. It’s a bad decade to be a Stuckey.
UNTIL… 2019. A spark of hope flickers when the granddaughter of founder W.S. Stuckey Sr., Stephanie Stuckey sinks her life savings and purchases the remnants of the family business. 10 months later, she partners with R.G. Lamar of Front Porch Pecans. Stephanie assumes the title of CEO and R.G. becomes President. Stuckey’s acquires Front Porch Pecans which brings fresh distribution channels and access to grocery stores.
Stuckey’s is on a roll once again and momentum builds as they go barnstorming across the country tearing up trade shows and working one-on-one with their independently-owned locations to improve looks and offerings while de-branding stores that aren’t able to meet Stuckey’s standards.
Purchasing a pecan processing plant (try saying that 10 times fast) in February 2021, Stuckey’s conducts a brand overhaul with a new look for their flagship products and brings production back in-house!
At the time of this recording there are 65 locations of Stuckey’s remaining, along with an Eastman, Georgia distribution center, online shop at Stuckeys.com (where you can buy Stuckey’s socks! I need these in my life!), and hundreds of retailers with more being added almost daily!
And this freshly-redesigned boxed pecan log roll right here in my hand is just one of the results of this new effort. How ‘bout we open this baby up and give it a taste test!?
The newly re-designed yellow box with a design that gives a vintage nod echoes a bygone era while still being strikingly modern. It’s certainly pretty enough for gifting and that’s exactly what I did to thank a neighbor for watching our porch while on vacation. The expiration date on the outside is obvious enough to notice and to make you aware of the product’s freshness without being intrusive to the design.
Thankfully the box was easy to open with the product inside wrapped in cellophane which was also easy to peel open. The nut roll itself is about 6 inches long (maybe a little longer. I didn’t measure it) with the girth of a large bratwurst. It’s neither hard nor soft with a bit of give when squeezed and a sweet, nutty aroma.
Ok, time for my first ever bite (did I fail to mention that I’ve never tried one of these before?). It’s thick and a little chewy but not overly so. Just a really good consistency. The first thing I notice (and am surprised by) is a light maple syrup flavor followed by a nice taste of brown sugar and pecans. And in the center is a white fluff (nougat? I’m not really a confectionary expert here). I’m not really sure what I was expecting here, perhaps a glorified candy bar? Well, to put this in the category of candy bar would be a crime. The Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll is nothing short of a few bites of Heaven prepared by your sweet Southern Grandma! On a scale from 1-10, I’m giving this a solid rating of “DANG! THIS IS GOOD!”
And there you have it! The legendary story of Stuckey’s still being written and the re-release of the legendary Pecan Log Roll!
Oh! And I’d like to give a personal thank you to Stuckey’s CEO, Stephanie Stuckey whom I messaged with a request that either she or someone from her team fact-check my information prior to production to ensure that we’re shootin’ you the straight stuff here! She was extremely gracious and took time out of her barnstorming to personally review this content and provide more than a few much-needed corrections. And I’ll admit that even with her corrections, there is always a chance I may have gotten a small detail or two less than perfect during my final polish. That’s showbiz folks!
… And if you’d like to help keep our pecan logs a-rolling and support the production of future episodes of the Dandy Fun House, you may do so via our patronage page at dandyfunhouse.com
Supporters gain access to exclusive bonus material and super supporters will also gain access to bonus material plus I’ll mail you stuff from our house / Dandy Fun House Studios that Mrs. Dandy wants me to get rid of! (We’re doing a de-clutter right now…)
That’s all folks! Be sure to roll YOUR pecans back here soon for the next episode of the Dandy Fun House where everything is always… FUN AND DANDY!
You can sell anything if you hang it from the ceiling! – W.S. Stuckey Sr.