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December 10, 2002

Stuck on Stuckey’s

While once as common as Cracker Barrel is today, Stuckey’s Pecan Log Shops are now a quite rare find. Almost every state in the U. S., mostly east of the Mississippi, had at least one Stuckey’s; Michigan had 18 of the over 375 nationwide. Currently, Michigan has no Stuckey’s.

THE HISTORY OF STUCKEY’S
Willam Stuckey, Sr., a pecan vendor, founded Stuckey’s in Eastman, Georgia in 1937, as a means of selling his pecans and pecan logs, a sticky confection made of pecans. The location in Eastman did so well that by 1941, there were three Stuckey’s in Georgia and one in Florida, and all four started selling gasoine. Eventually, Stuckey’s locations also started selling meals along with the gasoline (usually Texaco), gifts, and pecan logs. By 1964, there were over 100 Stuckey’s nationwide, and they continued to be frequent freeway stops for families in station wagons. Unfortunately, William died in 1977, and after his death, Stuckey’s started its downward spiral. The company sold stores in a futile attempt to break even, and by 1985, only 80 stores remained. The advent of fast food restaurants was also a nail in Stuckey’s coffin.
William’s son, Bill Stuckey, Jr., bought the Stuckey’s chain in 1985 in a last-ditch effort to save his father’s business. Bill had a new plan for keeping the ailing chain alive. This plan included combining Dairy Queen and/or Subway with Stuckey’s at some locations, as well as developing Stuckey’s Express — which is essentially selling typical Stuckey’s merchandise, such as state magnets and pecan logs, in the aisle of a gas station or truck stop. With Bill Stuckey, Jr.’s help, his father’s business is making a comeback, as several locations have opened in places such as Missouri and North Carolina. Also, some of his father’s old stores are still open or have been re-opened. Folk singer Ukelele Man has even recordes a song titled “I’ve Never Been to Stuckey’s”.
Robert Cora owns “Stuck on Stuckey’s” (http://www.stuckonstuckeys.com), a fan webpage on Stuckey’s. When asked why he thinks Stuckey’s has made a comeback, he responded, “There are a lot of baby boomers who have lots of disposable income and have a keen interest in Roadside America stuff like Route 66, 1950s and 1960s cars, old gas station merchandise, and icons like Stuckey's and Howard Johnson's. And in these troubled times of terrorist bombings and random sniper murders, people like to look back — or escape — to an era they feel was safer and more innocent. This would be the era in which Stuckey's existed. This is an illusion, of course, as people forget that in the 1950s and early 1960s there was widespread fear that a nuclear war with the Communists was going to happen, and the Cuban missile crisis comes to mind.”
He continues, “Nobody goes to Stuckey's for the superb dining experience. People go to capture a certian ambience, a particular flavor of roadside America at its best. But, I still love the pecan log rolls.”
As previously stated, most Stuckey’s are no longer operating as Stuckey’s. Most are now convenience stores and/or gas stations, such as in Cloverdale, Indiana, where a combination Citgo gas station/Subway/pizzeria/diner has assimilated the former Stuckey’s. Several former Stuckey’s have been demolished; for example, the McDonald’s in Waters, Michigan sits where a Stuckey’s once stood. Also, the former Stuckey’s in Micanopy, Florida is now an adult entertainment center! Several Stuckey’s fans, or “Stuckologists”, wish that the Stuckey’s corporation would reopen these old locations, especially the abandoned hulks, such as in High Hill, Missouri; Remmington, Indiana; and Quartzsite, Arizona.
Cora concludes, “Everytime I pass the site of the demolished Stuckey's store at I-4 and Florida State Route 46 near my house, I insist that my children be quiet and observe a moment of reverent silence. My daughter thinks I’m nuts, but my son agrees with me.”

TERRE HAUTE CUISINE
Fortunately, a still-open Stuckey’s exists at 9950 US-41 in Terre Haute, Indiana -- the closest operating Stuckey’s to Michigan. This monument to a former roadside empire will give many people a glimpse inside the brainchild of William Stuckey, a man who just wanted to make a living selling pecans. Like its cousin Howard Johnson’s, Stuckey’s has a trademark roof that calls out to weary travelers from nearby roads, such as Interstate 70, US-40, and US-41.
The Terre Haute Stuckey’s opened in September 1959, according to owner Robert R. Rich. When asked why he thinks his Stuckey’s has stayed open while many other locations have closed, Rich said, “We’ve had a lot of people build houses on nearby lakes, and nearby businesses have helped. I think we’ve just built a better mousetrap. We’ve been friendly to our customers... We’re on a major highway, US-41. A lot of hard work has helped too.” He continued, “We’re probably one of the oldest Stuckey’s stores still open.”
At the Terre Haute location, one can take a trip back to the 1950’s. Enjoy a hearty meal of burgers and fries, and after paying the bill, don’t forget to buy a pecan log or some fudge divinity for the road, as well as a state magnet for your collection.

Although Cracker Barrel evokes similar feelings to Stuckey’s, and although Cracker Barrel is more readily accessible, I am still stuck on Stuckey’s. Maybe I should move to Terre Haute.


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