Sneak Peek

Season 3, Episode 03

Stuckey’s — An American Icon Reborn

New Generation Revives Georgia-Grown Stuckey’s Legendary Past, Story Comes To National TV

Pecans Power The Comeback

WRENS, GA With a last name like hers, you’d think Stephanie Stuckey grew up like a kid in a candy factory. Instead, she was more like a kid standing outside with her nose pressed against the glass. Her grandfather founded the legendary Stuckey’s chain of cafes and giftshops that once stretched coast-to-coast with almost 400 locations, luring summer vacationers with a square meal and a shopful of tantalizing treats and trinkets.

But as Stephanie was growing up, the family had sold the chain. She still felt like royalty anytime she stopped there on family trips, but she was a princess in exile. So a few years back, she decided to take back the family legacy. She plowed her life savings into reviving the Stuckey’s dream, with all operations in tiny Wrens, GA, where W.S. Stuckey founded the chain in 1937 mainly due to an abundance of pecans – not to mention economic pressures brought on by hard times of the era. Meanwhile, his wife Ethel had developed a reputation as quite a chef in these parts; her candies were especially famed.

The Stuckey’s set up a roadside stand selling Ethel’s wares made from W.S.’s pecans and a legend was launched. A store and café came quickly, followed by rapid expansion as America discovered its long and ongoing love affair with the automobile.

In the 1960s, W.S. merged Stuckey’s with a large company, which was sold again in 1977, the year he passed away. Inferior ingredients were sourced. Production was moved offshore. Quality suffered and the once-familiar harbinger of summer vacation began to spiral in the wrong direction. His son, Billy Stuckey, reacquired the name and partnered up with existing gas stations to carry his products.

But by the 1990s, the chain was a shell of itself. By the 2010s, it was virtually forgotten. Then, here and there, starting in Georgia, the familiar Stuckey’s logo began to reappear. Stephanie, having committed her life to the task, was now in charge and on the move. And so was the chain that bore her family name.

Now Stuckey’s operates 50 stores and products are available from more than 5000 retailers. There are plans for bigger and better – more stand-alone stores and perhaps even some “superstores” and an entertainment center.

Stuckey’s headquarters and factory are a pin-neat fixture in downtown Wrens. Year-round jobs pump economic life into the town.

Energetic to a tee, Stephanie keeps watch over the factory like a real-life Willy Wonka. She flits from production line to production line, chatting with workers, lending a hand here and there and eventually joining in as a copper vat of melted caramel is poured over a batch of fresh popcorn that workers mix by hand.

The smells are outrageous. The tastes… well, you have to get off the factory floor to find out: No sampling’s allowed in the work area.

Somehow, Chip Carter, producer and host of the RFD-TV Network’s (DirecTV, Dish, Cable, Sling) popular series Where The Food Comes From, didn’t get that message as his crew filmed an episode on Stuckey’s. As the cameras rolled, Carter tried his hand at dipping chocolates, making peanut butter cups, and mixing up a batch of caramel corn himself.

“I couldn’t help but try samples – quality control, you know,” he laughed later. “But imagine my embarrassment when someone told me we weren’t supposed to taste anything on the factory floor. No wonder Stephanie kept giving me the evil eye! But – not to be clichéd – I was literally like a kid in a candy store.”

Pecan grower R.G. Lamar is as important to Stuckey’s revitalization as Stephanie herself. His multi-generational Georgia pecan farm supplies the key ingredient in Stuckey’s creations. The partnership proved so valuable early on he joined the team as President, while Stuckey serves as CEO. 

Just like her grandfather before her, Stephanie realized that the power of Stuckey’s was actually in farming. And just like he did, she decided to lean on local pecans to create perfect pairings, like the near-historic Stuckey’s Pecan Roll that was once as common at Christmas as wreaths and trees.

“We’re known for our candy, but the heart of most of our favorites is Georgia pecans,” Stuckey says. “Knowing consumers today are driven by local and by companies that care, it was a very easy decision to bring everything home to Wrens and make sure we were Georgia Grown once I regained control of the brand.”




RFD-TV Network — Every Friday at 10:00 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. EST


Cowboy Channel +