Stuckey's was born in the 1930s just as automobile traffic began to increase to and from Florida along the eastern seaboard. Williamson S. Stuckey Sr., of Eastman, had an especially bountiful pecan harvest one year and decided to sell some of it from a roadside lean-to along Georgia Route 23. People traveling the road quickly bought out all his pecans.
Following this success, Stuckey's wife began selling her homemade pecan candies. By 1937 their business—known as Stuckey's—was booming, and they were ready to move beyond the lean-to into a new building. Soon thereafter a rolled pecan confection became their best-selling product. The Stuckey's Pecan Log Roll, as it is now known, is based on a secret recipe of powdered sugar, white molasses, and roasted nuts.
Although primarily selling nut-based candy, the Stuckeys realized that they could also serve other needs of road travelers. They added restaurant service and began to stock other food for travelers. A souvenir section and gasoline pumps were also added. For many travelers in Georgia, Stuckey's teal blue roof would become as common a roadside image as McDonald's golden arches. In 1941 the first Stuckey's store outside of Georgia was built in Hilliard, Florida.
The business slowed during World War II (1941-45) as a result of sugar rationing but picked up again when the war ended. Stuckey's franchises began to sell rapidly, and eventually there were 350-plus Stuckey's stores throughout the continental United States. The company remained solely family-run until 1967, when the family merged operations with Pet Milk Incorporated. Although the merger was a sound financial decision, it proved to be a major setback for Stuckey's; both supervision and leadership of Stuckey's became more corporate and less personal.
When Williamson Stuckey Sr. died in 1977, the company still suffered financially, and the Stuckey family had been focusing its attention on politics since Williamson Stuckey Jr. had become a U.S. congressman. He served five terms, from 1967 to 1977, in the House of Representatives. By the 1980s, however, he had decided to refocus his energy on the family business. By 1985 he, along with a group of partners, repurchased Stuckey's from Pet Milk, stating that he "could not accept the demise of his family name from the American landscape."
The Stuckey family now franchises more than 200 Stuckey's shops in 19 states; 37 stores are located in Georgia. Corporate headquarters are in Silver Spring, Maryland. By placing such Stuckey's products as nuts, candy, and souvenirs inside travel plazas and convenience stores across America, Stuckey's has increased its roadside presence. Stuckey's iconic status in American roadside history and the Stuckey family's business approach are largely responsible for Stuckey's renaissance as a roadside store after seventy-plus years.