If you grew up in the 1950s or 1960s, chances are you might have gone on a cross-country car trip with your family. And your journey probably included a stop at Stuckey's, a turquoise-roofed building along one of America's highways. At Stuckey's you bought gas, food, and souvenirs. You also used the clean restrooms and basked in the atmosphere of air conditioning. Finally, before you left Stuckey's, you purchased some candy, probably one of their famous Pecan Log Rolls. You were ready to continue your trip.
The 1950s marked the first time in American history when families were able to travel throughout the United States. These benefits came about due to the post-World War II economic boom and the availability of leisure time afforded workers in the new American corporate structure. This freedom was also greatly enhanced by the introduction of the Interstate Highway system in 1956. Highways had a tremendous impact on American life. Average annual driving increased by 400 percent while shopping centers, suburbs, drive-in movies, gas stations, and fast food establishments entered the popular culture.
And as people began traveled cross-country on these new 41,000 miles of roads, they needed gas, restrooms, and a places to eat—that is where Stuckey's came in. Vacationing by car became the American way after the war and Stuckey's was an important part of that experience. Stuckey's were especially prevalent in the South and Western United States. In the 1950s and 1960s, they seemed to be everywhere. Stuckey's billboards lined the interstate, "Slow Down, Stuckey's 1000 feet" or "Pecan Log Rolls, 4 for $1 with gas Fill-up."
Stuckey's opened its first store in 1934 when Bill and Ethyl Stuckey began selling their family pecan candy to motorists in Georgia. After some success, they opened other stores along busy highways in Georgia and Florida and began including gasoline pumps, restaurants, and souvenirs along with their famous Pecan Log Roll candy.
While the Pecan Log Rolls might have been Stuckey's most significant contribution to America's sweet tooth, Stuckey's also distinguished itself with other items. Souvenirs like rubber snakes, T-shirts, novelty cigarette lighters, state salt-and-pepper shakers, and more recently, anything with Elvis on it, gave Stuckey's a lasting place in the hearts and minds of traveling American's during the 1950s and 1960s.
By the mid-1960s, Stuckey's enjoyed a virtual monopoly on American highways. During the early 1970s, at its peak, there were 360 Stuckey's stores in 31 states. But monopolies do not last forever and things began to change for Stuckey's. Fast food chains like McDonald's and Dairy Queen saw a golden opportunity to increase their business with highway travelers. Soon, even those fast food giants were joined in the competition by gas station-convenience store chains like Super America. And by the late 1970s, cheap air fares made long distance traveling by car less common. New highways were also replacing some of the older routes and many Stuckey's were left on less traveled roads. Furthermore, says one business analyst, "Stuckey's image became a little tired and often synonymous with our parents and grandparents. And the need for those personal touches traditionally associated with Stuckey's and those plastic souvenirs were replaced by fast food, fast service, and extended hours." Consequently, the number of Stuckey's began to fall in the late 1970s.
In 1985, Bill Stuckey, Jr., tried to reinvigorate the store by mixing some well-known brand names with traditional Stuckey's merchandise. More recently, Stuckey's has entered into partnerships with other fast food chains like Dairy Queen and Citgo, to sell Stuckey's candies and souvenirs at those businesses. The idea is to develop a number of Stuckey's Express locations within the more successful fast food chains. Finally, Stuckey's has replaced the turquoise roof and old pecan shop look with a more contemporary facade and logo. From its peak of 361 stores, Stuckey's operated just over 50 establishments in the late 1990s.
Stuckey's no longer rules the roadsides of America. However, the chain still sells thousands of its Pecan Log Rolls and souvenir salt-and-pepper shakers. But for anyone who traveled during the 1950s and 1960s along America's roadways, Stuckey's will always be a fond memory of that experience.
—David E. Woodard
Andrews, Greg. "Stuckey's Staples and Souvenirs Still Draw Travelling Customers." Indianapolis Star/News, 24 January 1998.
Brooks, Hugh. "Road Trip." http://www.retroactive.com/mar97/roadtrip.html February 1999.
Caruso, Dale. "Stuckey's: Pecan Log Roll and Coffee Make aComeback." American Reporter, Raleigh, North Carolina, 17 February 1998.